Senior US diplomat in Libya to support interim government

AP , Tuesday 18 May 2021

In recent months, several European governments reopened their embassies in Tripoli after years of closure as an act of support of the newly-elected transitional authorities

FILE PHOTO:Tunisia's President Kais Saied meets with Libya's Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh in Tripoli, Libya.Reuters

A top American diplomat arrived Tuesday in Libya's capital, marking the first visit by a senior US official since the UN backed election of an interim government in February.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood affirmed the US's full support of Libya's transitional authorities and urged an end to foreign military intervention in the North African country.

Libya's government of national unity is expected to enforce a cease-fire agreement signed in October and lead the country into general elections in December 2021.

`Today's meetings demonstrate the commitment of the US government and our strong diplomatic support for the progress the Libyan people have made towards an inclusive negotiated political solution,' Hood said at a joint news conference with Libya's Foreign Minister Najla al-Manqoush.

Along with US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland, Hood met with Libya's Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Mohammad Younes Menfi, head of Libya's Presidential Council.

`We urged the US to help us pressure all concerned parties to meet their obligations, respect UN resolutions and support the cease-fire,'' said Manqoush.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The uprising divided the oil-rich country between a government in the capital, Tripoli, and authorities based in the country's east that is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. 

In April 2019,  the Libyan National Army's (LNA) commander Khalifa Hafter and his forces launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. His 14-month-long campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

An October cease-fire agreement that included a demand that all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days led to a deal on the transitional government and December elections.

In a report obtained by The Associated Press last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres complained there has been no reduction of foreign fighters or their activities in Libya and that a UN imposed arms embargo continues to be breached.

The UN estimated in December there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians. But at an informal council meeting in late April, speakers said there were more than 20,000, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese, according to diplomats.

`The goal of the US is a sovereign, stable, unified Libya with no foreign interference and a state that is capable of combatting terrorism,' said Hood.

Hood said the US hopes that Libyans reach an agreement soon on the constitutional mechanism of the upcoming elections.

He added that America is willing to re-open its embassy in Libya but that the process would take time and require `a lot of logistics.'

`We are not waiting for that; we will be visiting frequently and we will be inviting her excellency to Washington,' he said in reference to Manqoush.

The US suspended embassy operations in Libya in 2014 as fighting between Libyan factions neared its embassy in Tripoli. The US diplomatic mission to Libya is now located in safer Tunis, Tunisia.

In recent months, several European governments, including France and Greece, reopened their embassies in Tripoli after years of closure as an act of support of the newly-elected transitional authorities.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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