Libya situation is key to entire region’s security - Minister

Libya/G7 – Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to France Info (excerpts)

Paris, 8 April 2016


THE MINISTER – I’ve been in my post for two months, give or take a day, and the day after I took over from Laurent Fabius I went immediately to Munich to discuss the Libya issue, because things are happening over there. Since the intervention in 2011 with the bombing, we haven’t resolved the problem. It’s a bit like in Iraq; I’m among those who were against an intervention in Iraq, and I think that those who were [against it] were right, because we can see the subsequent chaos.

In Libya it’s the same thing: you carry out strikes and afterwards it’s chaos. And who suffers from this primarily? The Libyan people, of course, who have had enough, and Daesh [so-called ISIL] is also taking advantage of it.

It’s a priority issue not only for Libya, for the countries in the region – I’m thinking of Tunisia in particular and Algeria – but also others. And it’s also a priority issue for Europe, because if we do nothing, terrorism will make progress, will strike us even more, and hundreds of thousands of refugees will also find a route to leave.

Q. – You had a discussion with Fayez Sarraj, the head of the national unity government, which has returned to Tripoli, which seems to be somewhat forcing the destiny of that complicated country, Libya.

THE MINISTER – I met him in Tunis, because he was still there three weeks ago. The goal he had – he’s an extremely brave person – is to go to Tripoli, the capital, as a symbolic place to establish his government, and that’s what he’s done, taking personal risks. The international community absolutely must support him, France is supporting him, and the countries which support him are also intending to reopen their embassies.

Q. – Well, on that very point…

THE MINISTER – Tunisia’s already done so. I spoke to Mr Sarraj on the telephone yesterday and he invited me to Libya. As soon as the conditions are met, I’ll go there, because it’s very important, in order to make progress on solutions in that tribal country which stabilize it and also reassure the region, including Europe, that the government can act. So it’s already taken some decisions: the central bank is under its authority, and soon the national oil company [will be] – in other words, Libya’s assets.

Q. – And when is the French Embassy in Tripoli due to open?

THE MINISTER – It’s difficult for me to give you an answer, because the building is currently empty, the embassy staff having been forced to leave for security reasons; so we must do preparatory work. But it’s a political choice to create the conditions for this return. As I told you, Tunisia – which has been hit by Daesh on its border with Libya – has already returned, and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr Kobler, intends to reopen his office in the coming days.

Q. – A short question: is a military intervention still planned in Libya? Will the international community get down to this?

THE MINISTER – I don’t think we should repeat the mistakes of the past. If you imagine air strikes and troops on the ground, that’s not on the agenda – at any rate, it’s not France’s position. On the other hand, to make Mr Sarraj’s government safe, if it requests international assistance, we’ll examine that, but it’s his decision and we must respect the country’s independence. And in order for the country to be defended, it had to create a government. It absolutely must be supported. (…)./.

Franco-German working meeting/Libya – Meeting between M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and his German counterpart – Exchanges with the press

La Celle-Saint-Cloud, 5 April 2016

Q. – A question on Libya: you said several times that you would support and respond to a request for help from the head of the national unity government. What kind of help? And are you asking for greater involvement on the part of your European partners as well?

THE MINISTER – We see eye to eye with our European partners on the Libyan situation, which is extremely troubling. We have defended the same position, i.e. the need to establish a national unity government that is recognized by the international community and based in the capital, Tripoli, where it can begin doing its work. Nothing is possible with Libya if this step isn’t taken.

I myself met Mr Sarraj in Tunis during an official visit to that country, and I saw someone who was strong and determined. And I must say I was pleased that he decided to go to Tripoli despite the many, many obstacles, even though it meant putting his own safety at risk. He’s someone who is extremely brave.

Now he is there, and we absolutely must support him. Important decisions were taken, notably by the central bank and national oil company, which both support him, and those were also the conditions enabling him to act. That’s extremely important, because Libya’s assets will play a key role when it comes to taking a number of actions.

We were very pleased to note that Tunisia has decided to reopen its embassy in Tripoli. The question of whether to reopen our embassies is obviously a topical one. We want to see this situation resolved. And if the Libyan government asks us to help guarantee its security, obviously we’re ready. But Libya is first and foremost a matter for the Libyans themselves; it’s not a matter of deciding something on their behalf, especially in light of past experience, with air raids that cannot be an option this time around.

We recently held a meeting in Paris with our British and Italian friends about the Libyan situation. I think Frank is right: the situation in Libya is key to the security of an entire region. I was in Algiers recently and we spent a lot of time talking about the Libyan situation, and there too, we saw eye to eye. I mentioned Tunisia, but I think we’ve now entered a new phase. We must build on it, and, in particular, we must continue our talks with our Egyptian friends – that’s very important./.

Libya/Daesh – Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the daily newspaper Ouest-France

Paris, 1 April 2016

Q. – The situation is very chaotic in Libya, with three governments and the presence of Daesh [so-called-ISIL]. France says it is supporting the national unity government of Fayez Sarraj, who arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday. Under what terms?

THE MINISTER – I recently met Mr Sarraj in Tunis. He’s a very strong, very brave man. He told me he was determined to go to Tripoli to sort out his security [arrangements] with local forces himself. He wants to be able to assert a legitimacy which is supported by the members of Parliament and recognized by the international community. His decision to go to Tripoli now is encouraging.

Q. – Is France going to help ensure his security?

THE MINISTER – Not just France. Nothing is possible without this legal government recognized by the international community. Libya is a subject of concern shared by all the countries of the region and well beyond. The chaos reigning there today is conducive to the rapid development of terrorism. This poses a direct threat to the region and to Europe. Daesh is retreating in Syria and Iraq, but making progress on the ground in Libya. We’ve got to be prepared to answer the call if Sarraj’s national unity government asks for assistance, including on the military front.

Q. – Answer the call – does that mean being ready for an intervention?

THE MINISTER – That will depend on what the legal government asks us. Imagining that we could launch air strikes outside of any political process isn’t an option. The Algerians, who weren’t in favour of the strikes in 2011, along with the Russians, never waste an opportunity to remind us of the operation in Libya. We must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and not forget what happened in Iraq. The American intervention under George W. Bush bears a tragic responsibility. It had a profound impact on the region and gave birth to extremism and Daesh. All those who are thinking about solutions, in Syria as much as Libya, know that we mustn’t make these mistakes again. (…)./.

Libya – Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris, 30 March 2016

France welcomes today’s arrival in Tripoli of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and several members of the Presidential Council to prepare for the installation of the national unity government. I applaud this courageous decision, which has the full support of the international community.

France calls on all Libyan institutions to serve this government in order to meet the expectations of the people, in line with the Skhirat agreement and Security Council Resolution 2259 (2015).

The Libyan national unity government can count on France’s full support in tackling the challenges it faces, and first among them, the urgent need to bring an end to advances by Daesh [so-called ISIL].

Let me remind you that the European Union decided to impose sanctions on those who endeavour to delay this government from taking office, thereby threatening the unity, security and stability of Libya and its neighbours./.

Published on 07/02/2017

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