France to propose EU sanctions against Libyan officials

France urges Libya’s two rival parliaments to form unity government, will propose sanctions against officials impeding efforts

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault poses at the ministry in Paris, on March 8, 2016.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Thursday that there is no time to waste in forming a unity government in Libya against DAESH and that he will push for EU sanctions against any Libyan official who hinders a UN-backed unity government.

"I do not exclude threatening them with sanctions. In any case, that is what I will propose to my foreign affairs colleagues on Monday in Brussels," Ayrault told the iTELE news channel.

Since 2014, Libya has been divided between the control of two rival parliaments, the General National Congress (GNC) in the capital Tripoli and the House of Representatives (HoR), operating from the eastern city of Tobruk, each backed by their own militias.

With the ongoing chaos in the country, the DAESH terror group seized the opportunity to expand its power, and took control of the city of Sirte.  

"We have to fight DAESH where it is trying to develop in Libya, but the precondition is the constitution of a new national unity government," Ayrault said.

"We can't wait any longer. It's enough. There are some who are blocking things for personal reasons and their own interests and I think we shouldn't exclude putting sanctions on them."

The sanctions would likely consist of travel bans to the EU and asset freezes, and target the speaker of HoR Aguila Saleh, as well as Nuri Abu Sahmein of GNC and its head Khalifa Ghweil, a European diplomatic source said.

"It would not make sense to impose travel bans and asset freezes on more than two or three people, because you would end up with no one to negotiate with," added the Brussels-based source.

In January, a UN backed unity government was announced, for which Fayez Sarraj, a lawmaker from the eastern parliament HoR, was chosen to head. But HoR rejected the new government in a vote.

"There is a prime minister, Mr Sarraj, who is capable of directing (a unity government). A majority of MPs say they are in favour but the parliament cannot find a consensus because of barriers," said Ayrault.

"We cannot continue with this situation that is a danger for Libyans, for the whole region... and for Europe," he added.

France has been conducting reconnaissance flights over Libya, where Paris took a leading role in a 2011 NATO air campaign that helped rebels overthrow long-time autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

Diplomats and Libyan officials have confirmed that French military advisers are currently operating on the ground in coordination with Britain and the United States.

TRTWorld and agencies