Libya's ambassador in Cairo, Mohamed Faiz Gabriel, spoke to Al-Ahram about the security situation in the war-devastated country.
Gabriel offered his perspective on the regional and international contexts impacting developments in Libya.
Here are the senior diplomat's responses to our questions.
Al-Ahram Hebdo: First, what is your view on Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's recent statement on the situation in Libya?
Ambassador Mohamed Faiz Gabriel: With great interest I followed President El-Sisi's interview with the Saudi Okaz newspaper. He said that Egypt stands with the will of the Libyan people, and asserted that Egypt will not hesitate to support them if they ask for support, to serve purposes of peace and stability. We are confident given this stance and El-Sisi's backing of Libya's army, lately-elected parliament, and legitimate government. This Egyptian initiative seeks to maintain the unity of Libyan territory, reconstruct state institutions and encourage political forces to engage in politico-partisan activities and renounce violence.
It is said some regional and international powers are part of the conflict in Libya. Who are those powers?
The UN Security Council recently issued a resolution that backs the political process in Libya and warns — as well as criminalises — any state providing arms support to Libyan militias, or taking the side of one Libyan party against the other. I hope that all neighbouring countries abide by these conditions, because they can lead to stability in Libya. I also wish that all states follow Egypt's approach towards Libya as it is based on neutrality towards all parties.
Is it true that a Qatari jet carrying weapons recently landed in a Libyan airport?
I have followed this news, which was announced by the Libyan national army. We regret this matter, for supplying one side with weapons against others intensifies the severity of the armed conflict and extends its time span. This is unacceptable and signifies a violation of UN Security Council decisions on Libya that call for assisting the legitimate Libyan government. Libya is current under the provisions of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which accepts no foreign intervention unless it comes under the umbrella of the international organisation.
A delegation of Libyan tribes met several officials in Cairo a few days ago. What is your comment on this step?
Inviting tribesmen of Libya to Egypt embodies a revival of old traditions and social norms that disappeared for four decades. Gaddafi's former regime had marginalised the role of the tribes. But now the role of the tribe is currently revived. Many Libyans were denied the right of practicing politics for long periods due to the oppression of the regime. The Cairo meeting will unite all social forces and mobilise for popular backing of the state and its institutions, including the military and police. For the tribesmen, they perceive Egypt as a political shelter, as it has always been throughout history, especially amid the crimes committed by terrorist groups.
What about the militias?
After the revolution, the number of the militia members reached 25,000, jumping to 150,000 by now. They are spreading alongside numerous groups with different affiliations. These groups had provided working opportunities for the Libyan youth who were unemployed. The militias represent a huge problem for Libya because they do not exist under a unified, clear leadership.
Can you describe to us Libya's political scene?
It is very disturbing, but expected. The revolutionaries fought each other, and some countries provided money and arms to extremist, Islamist groups. Terrorism became a threat to Libya, and definitely its neighbours, including Egypt. Other reasons have also led to the deterioration of post-revolution Libya, mainly the absence of political forces. Gaddafi had excluded and distorted them over 40 years. The process of political polarisation is occurring within a new public atmosphere of tribalism and sectarianism. A price has to be paid for this transitional process, and the biggest challenge facing the Libyans lies in preserving Libya as a national and unified state. The Libyans are capable of beating the current crises, however. Terrorism has become a problem for all world states, not only Libya.
To restore stability in Libya, what should neighbouring states and the international community do?
I urge all these parties to stand beside the Libyan people and its legitimate government against plans that seek to turn Libya into a terrorist state. Some countries have shown seriousness and cooperation in fighting terrorism so far, with Egypt, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) coming on the top of that list. I believe the whole world will not accept Libya to be a home for terrorist movements. The late meeting of neighbouring states has unanimously approved the Egyptian initiative, which was built on principles of non-intervention, renounciation of violence, and emphasis on the unity of Libya's territory.
What is your view on the immediate future for Libya?
Now we have a government, parliament and an army achieving progress on the ground and enjoying support from citizens in Benghazi. We also have UN resolutions, as I stated earlier. But the problem remains in Libya's eastern city of Derna, which is controlled by extremists and Al-Qaeda members. They announced their loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, which represents a great threat that should be countered. Libya's borders are broad, and monitoring them is a complex mission in the meantime.
* This interview was first published at Al-Ahram Hebdo.