Cairo – Special Representative of UN Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya Ghassan Salame began his official visit to Libya by meeting with President Fayez al-Sarraj and his political ally the Head of the High Council of State, Abdulrahman al-Sweihli.
During the meeting, Saleme vowed to provide technical and logistical support for the presidential and legislative elections expected during the summer of next year, if agreed on holding it according to international standards.
The talks focused on the economic, political and security challenges facing Libya.
Meanwhile, several protests and demonstrations erupted in several Libyan cities rejecting the agreement reached between the Presidential Council in Libya and the Italian government which stipulates helping Libyan Coast Guard to fight illegal immigration.
Videos and photos circulated on social media showing Italian military ships in Libyan regional waters despite news that they had left due to threats from Head of Libyan National Army Marshal Khalifa Haftar who considered their presence a violation of Libyan sovereignty.
Libyan News Agency (LANA) reported several popular protests in east Libya and the capital Tripoli rejecting the Italian presence. Protesters burnt the Italian flag and hoisted banners denouncing Sarraj’s agreement with Rome.
Demonstrators accused Sarraj of treason and treachery.
Sarraj’s deputy and member of proposed Presidential Council Fathi al-Mujabari announced his support for Haftar’s order to target any military vessel that reaches Libyan waters.
Mujabari warned, in a statement, against violating the order. He added that Libyan-Italian friendship treaty and memorandums of understanding do not approve this kind of interventions.
Yet, Sarraj ignored all objections and welcomed the Special Representative lauding the UN’s efforts and support aiming at reaching a political solution for the Libyan crisis.
Following the meeting, Sarraj said his government is ready to provide all the support for the UN mission, wishing the new envoy success and calling on all parties to cooperate fully with him.
Sarraj said he briefed Salame on an agreement he reached with Haftar in Paris.
“We believe that the Libyan Political Agreement is the basis of any dialogue. It is important to step forward and complete what we started,” he added.
He also urged UNSMIL to return to operating out of Libya as soon as possible and requested the UN to provide the necessary technical and logistical support so that the presidential and legislative elections proposed next year can be successful.
For his part, the Special Representative informed Sarraj that the UN Secretary General is looking forward to seeing Libya in the near future stable and independent.
“I assume my role with the utmost respect for the national sovereignty, independence and unity of Libya,” Salame said.
Saleme described his meeting with Sarraj as “constructive” and stated that they “agreed on the urgency to end the suffering of the Libyan people”.
“The UN mission in Libya was forced to leave Tripoli in 2014, and I am pleased to inform the Government of National Accord today that we are gradually returning to Tripoli,” Salame said.
He reiterated that the role of UNSMIL is to help the Libyan people so that the coming days would bring peace and stability for a united, independent Libya.
Saleme admitted that there will be difficulties and challenges ahead but stated that he is optimistic that Libya can emerge from this crisis soon.
“The time factor is very important here. Every passing day without a political agreement has negative security, economic and social consequences for Libyans,” he stated.
For his part, Sweihli called upon the UN mission to have a more effective role to help reach a nation-wide consensus and a national reconciliation that can be applied.
Sweihli issued a statement asking UN to help end the siege imposed by Libya’s National Army on Dernah, extremist groups stronghold in east Libya.
Recently, army led by Haftar successfully regained control over Benghazi and the strategic oil crescent region.
Several terrorist organizations’ supporters requested international interventions to prevent the army from countering terrorism in Tripoli and Misratah, according to military officials speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.