By Peter Millett
We have known each other for two and a half years. But the time has come for me to leave. As Juliet said to Romeo: “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” It is hard to say goodbye, but I have to move on.
Getting to know you has always been a pleasure. Though it hasn’t been easy.
For the first 10 months, I wasn’t able to set foot in the country. Being an Embassy in exile prevented me from meeting Libyans in Libya.
We of course had been good friends from the past. I often heard about the historical links between Britain and Libya. It was a friendship with many ups and downs. Visiting the military cemeteries in Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk showed me the depth of the links.
The 1950s and 1960s were good years for our friendship. But the Qadhafi era saw many disputes, disagreements and disasters.
I watched your revolution from afar, admiring a momentous movement that triggered hopes for a better future for the Libyan people.
Unfortunately, these hopes have not been fulfilled. The more I have got to know you, the more I share this frustration.
Looking to the future, Libya needs evolution rather than further revolution. A constant refrain from Libyans is the fact that there is no “state”. They want to see the gradual development of institutions that can symbolise the sovereignty of Libya.
But most importantly, they need institutions that can serve them and offer efficient and effective services: education, health, clean streets, cash in banks.
Building the state from the bottom up will take time. It will require Libyans to develop unity of purpose and a willingness to compromise for the greater good of the people.
Such a compromise was reached 2 years ago. A highlight of my time with you was in Skhairat on 17 December when the Libya Political Agreement was signed – by Libyans.
The aim was clear: to create a government that could unify the political, economic and military institutions of the country and use Libya’s resources for the benefit of all the people.
It is a great pity that the LPA has not been properly implemented. Provisions have been neglected and deadlines have been missed. Too often, the personal ambitions of a few individuals have stood in the way.
The LPA remains the only viable framework to solve the political crisis in Libya. Now I hear talk of early elections. Decisions on elections can of course only be taken by the Libyans. And elections will almost certainly be necessary later this year.
But as a friend, I have to say that, without proper preparation, early elections do not offer a quick or easy solution. Voter registration will take time, security arrangements will need careful preparation and a new elections law will be required.
But most importantly, greater political reconciliation will be required, so that the result unites rather than divides the country; and so that all those who participate accept the result.
I have no doubt that some people who read this will accuse me of interference. The myths about British conspiracies against Libya never fail to amaze me. They are of course, rubbish.
The idea of the British government supporting terrorism, extremism or the Muslim Brotherhood or wanting to partition the country and plunder Libya’s wealth are the stuff of fiction, not fact.
A core message, that I have said to you time and time again, is that decisions on your future are up to you, not the international community.
Breaking up is hard to do. And I do it with sadness in my heart. I will continue to watch your progress, knowing that you have many friends in Britain and around the world who want to help.
I wish you every success for the future.
Ambassador to Libya, Tripoli
11th January 2018 Tripoli, Libya