Western countries are moving towards a military intervention in Libya to face the Islamic State group. However, many of the recently held meetings hosted by Western countries, such as last week’s Rome conference, revealed differences and divisions regarding a military solution to Libyan crisis.
Confronting the IS group is not the contentious point in forging a solution to the 5 year-old civil war in Libya: preserving western interests, such as oil, in Libya is a top priority for western governments.
Indeed, Rome has recently sent special forces to protect the port of Italy's ENI company on the Libyan coast. Meanwhile, France is also conducting occasional intelligence surveillance over Libya.
There is a western consensus on the importance of curbing illegal immigration via Libya.
War-torn Libya does not seem to have a say in deciding its own fate after all.
The country continues to be split between an internationally recognised government in Tobrok in the east and a defiant Islamist-led coalition sitting in Tripoli in the West.
Meanwhile, Cairo is preoccupied with the importance of accelerating coordination efforts with western countries to combat radical Islamist groups in Libya. However, these efforts do not seem to have produced tangible results.
Ahram Online interviewed Colonel Ahmed Al-Mesmari, spokesman for the Libyan Chief of Staff, on the situation in Libya in light of the threat of Western military intervention.
Ahram Online: What is the West’s current stance following developments in Rome?
Colonel Ahmed Al-Mesmari: The West hinted at military intervention in Libya to help the Libyan people, yet they set as a condition the House of Representatives’ approval of Fayez Al-Sarraj's [national unity] government.
So now it's about political trajectory.
This trajectory faces a lot of obstacles, as the government has not yet been formed. Al-Sarraj requested on Monday that the council grant an extension, allowing time for further consultations.
AO: Are questions about the future of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan army, impeding the formation of the government?
Al-Mesmari: General Haftar has local unanimous consensus within the Libyan army as well as in the eastern, western, and southern regions. Haftar is the symbol. Only terrorist militias and armed radical groups object to him as they are fully aware that if Haftar reaches a leadership position, there will be no place for militias in Libya.
Even though the neighbouring and Western countries, particularly France, Britain, and the United States, are aware that the spread of those militias is dangerous to their interests, they exert pressure on Parliament and the government to exclude Haftar and to include the Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, to participate in the political sphere.
AO: There is, however, an unstructured military intervention taking place in Libya, is there coordination between these foreign players and Libyan army?
Al-Mesmari: Libya is in a crisis on all levels. However, there is a local Libyan appeal to work on the unity of Libyan land. There is also a rejection of the Western role that does not consider the societal dimensions in Libya.
There are military breaches of foreign countries, which Libyan officials have denied taking part in.
From this we have to exclude Egypt, which is in coordination with the Libyan general command, as any move could deepen the Libyan crisis.
AO: How are the political and tribal blocs reacting towards a possible consensus?
Al-Mesmari: The positions now are pointing towards reaching a Libyan social consensus on the political level through a Libyan-Libyan dialogue.
The political party blocs as well as the social tribal blocs see that the solution of the crisis lies in agreement.
This will create an effort to get out of the cycle of control and conditional aid.
We can fight the IS group and extremism and even their supporters, but the embargo on the Libyan army and the media campaigns that are conducted by hostile states and enemies is what we are suffering from.
The United Nations also has to support anyone fighting extremism and terrorism in Libya. It has not yet given any support, but we continue fighting the IS group and others.
AO: How can you convince the international community of the effectiveness of a Libyan-Libyan dialogue?
Al-Mesmari: It's true that there are many challenges and obstacles, but these challenges increase with the intervention of the international community. The Libyan people have a certain conviction regarding the importance of the national consensus; I believe that Fayez Al-Sarajj himself is aware of this.
AO: So did the meeting between Sarraj and Haftar, which was facilitated by Cairo, help ease the tensions between them?
Al-Mesmari: Yes, of course the meeting was very fruitful and clarified a lot of vague issues. The role that Cairo played was very important, especially in helping the warring parties reach a compromise, where both sides started trusting one another. In the end, this will result in something good.
In my opinion Sarajj started to lean towards a strategic transformation on the Libyan- Libyan dialogue.