If Libya asks we stand ready to assist government, NATO says

NATO Deputy Secretary General Vershbow says if new UN-backed Tripoli government asks NATO stands ready to assist, to develop and reform its defence institutions

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow speaks during a press conference.

Updated Apr 17, 2016

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said on Saturday that the alliance is ready to assist the new UN-backed Libyan government in Tripoli if it requests help to build up security institutions.

According to a draft, the European Union is expected to consider moving security personnel into Libya to help stabilise the chaotic situation in the country and Vershbow said NATO may also play a role.

"The progress towards the consolidation of this new government of national unity in Libya is encouraging and we stand ready to assist the government if it requests," Vershbow said.

"Two years ago we were very close to implementing a programme to assist the government at that time in Libya ... to develop and reform its defence institutions," he told reporters at the Globsec security conference in Bratislava.

"If this new government requests NATO assistance in the same area, we stand ready to help them out," he added.

EU foreign and defence ministers will come together in Luxembourg on Monday and the main topic of conversation will be police and border training missions for Libya. If such a support becomes real, it would initially be in Tripoli, where the new government is trying to establish itself.

According to Reuters, diplomats said that there is no detailed discussion with the new UN-backed Libyan government in defining what kind of assistance they wanted from the EU, and that it is keen to avoid the impression of moving into the country uninvited.

Authorities in Libya's capital announced last week that they were ceding power to a UN-backed unity government in a major boost to international efforts to end deep political divisions in the strife-torn country.

The move came nearly a week after UN-backed prime minister-designate Fayez Sarraj arrived with members of his cabinet in the capital by sea, after the Tripoli authorities closed airspace to keep him out.

One day later Libya's new UN-backed unity government was put in doubt after Prime Minister Khalifa Ghweil of the country’s Tripoli-based National Salvation Government backtracked on an earlier promise to cede power.

Urging his ministers not to stand down, Ghweil told his cabinet that "given the requirements of public interest," ministers are "requested to continue your mission in accordance with the law."

Ghweil also threatened to prosecute anyone working with the new government, without elaborating on his decision for the U-turn.

The Tripoli government took control of the capital city two years ago after electing its own prime minister, rivalling the House of Representatives, which later moved to the eastern city of Tobruk.

The international community has pleaded with Libya's warring sides to unite behind the unity government, which it sees as vital to tackling expansion of DAESH and rampant people smuggling in the North African state.

TRTWorld and agencies