Kuwait City, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz has expressed optimism that the Arab League summit in Kuwait will produce resolutions to help achieve and safeguard Arab unity.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the annual summit, Abdelaziz affirmed that Libya is determined to build a state of institutions, to rebuild the capabilities of its armed forces and police, and to tackle the widespread traffic of weapons among civilians.
Abdelaziz confirmed that the Tripoli government will launch a national dialogue with the help of the Arab League and the African Union, and will build a strategy to fight terrorism in the country.
The North African country finds itself facing a political and security crisis today with rebels in control of three major ports in the country’s east selling oil without the government’s consent. The Tripoli government has stepped up its campaign against the rebels after they recently illegally loaded the North-Korean-flagged tanker, The Morning Glory, with a reported 234,000 barrels of crude oil. Former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was removed from office after the oil tanker managed to escape a Libyan blockade with Abdallah Al-Thinni taking over as acting prime minister.
The UN Security Council subsequently adopted a resolution imposing sanctions on illegal oil exports from Libya, including authorizing the boarding and searching of oil tankers suspected of carrying oil from rebel-held ports in the country. The Morning Glory was then seized in international waters by US Navy SEALs and returned to Libya.
Abdelaziz told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Libya is in a transitional stage from revolution to state-building and it needs support from regional and international partners. The transition from revolution to state-building is not an easy process and the number of weapons in the possession of civilians is a cause for concern which must be addressed.”
He confirmed that the government signed a number of contracts with Arab and European states, as well as the United States, to help train members of the Libyan armed forces and police.
Abdelaziz said national dialogue was an internal matter between Libyans, and that the Libyan authorities must take the first step themselves, adding that support from the Arab League and the African Union would be welcomed and that Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby had already presented some ideas to move the process forward.
Commenting on the issue of terrorism, Abdelaziz welcomed strategic plans presented by Egypt to address the issue. He said: “Libya and Egypt suffer from terrorism, its dangers and challenges, in addition to a number of other Arab countries that also suffer from this dangerous phenomenon.”
“Terrorism should be fought at all levels,” he added.
Abdelaziz described Libya’s relations with Egypt as “historic and strategic,” adding that “what happens in Egypt affects Libya and vice versa.”
Commenting on reports of Egyptian nationals being kidnapped in Libya, Abdelaziz said: “There are at least two million Egyptians working in Libya, and isolated incidents happen because of the lack of security and the proliferation of weapons. We acknowledge that there are problems and armed groups in the border area, but there is coordination and cooperation between the two countries on this issue and Egypt is providing us with support in training the army and police in order to control the security situation.”