France offers to help Libya's UN-backed government

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will meet Prime Minister Fayez Seraj of Libya's UN-backed government to offer help in taking control of Tripoli

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault

Updated Mar 19, 2016

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Friday he would meet with Prime Minister-designate Fayez Seraj of Libya's UN-backed government to discuss how the cabinet can act quickly to take Tripoli.

Jean-Marc Ayrault said he would offer help the UN-backed government achieve this goal.

"It is indispensable that this government is set up in Tripoli," Ayrault told reporters in Tunis.

"I will see Mr Seraj tomorrow to see what his political and military needs are. For its [cabinet] legitimacy to be recognised not only by the international community, but Libyans too, then it has to be in Tripoli. We need to help that."

Fayez Seraj said in a television interview on Thursday it was only a "matter of days" before his forces would move to Tripoli.

But Ayrault said, "This still needs to be ironed out ... I think the guarantee [of security] could be given by several countries in association with Libyan authorities and security forces."

The US chose to recognise the UN-backed cabinet as the oil-rich country's only government on Sunday and are pushing it to move to Tripoli and start work.

The flag of the Kingdom of Libya flies in front of a refinery in Ras Lanuf in this March 8, 2011. (Reuters Archive)

Western powers see the UN-backed cabinet as representing the best chance of ending the chaos in Libya. The country has been unstable since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled five years ago in an uprising that was later supported by Western powers. It is hoped the UN-backed government will be able to end a security vacuum that has allowed the DAESH terrorist group to thrive.

Libya is divided between several authorities - with the General National Council (GNC) administering the country’s capital, Tripoli, and the rival House of Representatives based in Tobruk. The UN-backed cabinet is the latest attempt to establish a single authority in the country.

But the cabinet is still based in Tunis and trying to set up itself in Libya, where it is facing opposition from hardliners on both sides of the country's conflict.

Members of a brigade headed by field commander Salah Bogheib and loyal to Khalifa Haftar - a retired general and former chief of staff for Muammar Gaddafi - hold up their guns. (AFP Archive)

Khalifa al-Ghwell, the prime ,inister of the Tripoli-based GNC government in Libya, said the cabinet lacked the legitimacy to govern from the capital. "If they want to enter Libya as individuals they are welcome, because they are Libyans."

"We don't advise them to enter Libya as a government, as to do so would be a violation of the law," he said.

The fate of Libya is of strong interest to the West since the country holds the largest oil reserves in Africa and among the ten largest globally.

TRTWorld and agencies