Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—There is no military solution to the Libya crisis, Britain’s ambassador to Libya Michael Aron has said, calling on all parties to heed the UN’s call for national dialogue.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Tunis, where the majority of Western diplomats to Libya have fled following the latest violence, Aron said that he would return to Tripoli only after a ceasefire and the establishment of a “moderate” national unity government.
“Of course I don’t want to be in Tunis and I want to return to Tripoli, but I think that it is very important for there to be a solution to the crisis and for there to be a government in Tripoli to work with. We left Tripoli due to the security situation, and we have remained in Tunis due to a lack of agreement with the government. We do not recognize the government of Omar Al-Hassi and there has been no communication with us,” Aron said.
Libya is currently split between two leading authorities; the internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk, which formed a government led by Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani, and an Islamist-led General National Congress and government led by Omar Al-Hassi in Tripoli. The Thani government has subsequently allied itself with Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are besieging Islamist militias in Benghazi and the capital. Official sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haftar is soon to be named as commander-in-chief of Libya’s military forces.
The British ambassador refused to specify whether the UK is seeking to place both sides of the Libyan conflict—General Khalifa Haftar and Libyan Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood—on the UN sanctions list. “If there are any parties or individuals that reject dialogue and continue the fighting, then these figures will be placed on the sanctions list,” Aron warned.
Ambassador Aron said that Haftar is not an “official representative” of the Libyan people or military. He questioned the position of Haftar and his Libyan National Army forces within the Tobruk-leadership and criticized the general’s attacks on civilian areas.
Aron said that the most important thing was for Libya to establish a “national unity” government and for everybody in the Libyan state to work together against the “extremists” within this framework.
As for the UK’s response to Libya potentially appointing Haftar as commander-in-chief, Aron said: “We believe that the solution to the crisis lies in establishing a national unity government, including a defense minister and chief of staff and all other [cabinet] members from among the Libyans themselves [but] after dialogue.”
“We recognize the [Tobruk-based] parliament and the government of Abdullah Al-Thani as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“It is possible for there to be a legitimate parliament and government, but we can stop here and the problem will persist. We want Libya to enjoy security and stability and to see the country be successful. Recognizing the government and parliament is not enough, we need dialogue,” he added.
“There can only be a political solution, there is no military solution to this crisis. The war will continue for years if the fighting continues, and this will be a disaster for Libya,” the British ambassador said.