Libya Tribune

LIBYA is located a long 6,000 miles away from the Korean Peninsula.

Still, this North African country figures in all discussions about the cancellation of the planned summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

The reason is the developments leading to the cancellation began with a mention by Trump’s National Security Adviser Joh Bolton of “the Libyan model.” He was referring to the 2004 negotiations that led to the shipping of Libya’s nuclear components to the US.

No link has been established between Qaddafi’s renunciation of his nuclear ambitions and the 2011 uprising that led to the tragic end of the long-time Libyan strongman.

But nobody can deny the link between the US-led military intervention that Barack Obama called the “worst mistake” of his presidency and the chaotic conditions prevailing in Libya since 2011.

Two recent developments show how perilous the situation is.

At least seven people were killed by an explosion in Benghazi on Thursday night. The bomb that exploded close to the Tibesti hotel, the city’s biggest, also left several people injured.

Earlier this month, at least 11 people were reported dead after armed men attacked the headquarters of Libya’s Electoral Commission in Tripoli.

Also on Thursday, the United Nations drew world’s attention to how escalating conflict in Derna are starving civilians with humanitarian workers denied access to deliver life-saving assistance.

Derna, home to 150,000 people, is the only part of eastern Libya outside the control of Khalifa Haftar, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

LNA forces have besieged Derna since 2016 in an effort to drive out fighters belonging to other groups.

Their campaign had previously been limited to occasional air strikes and bombardments. Now there are land and air operations adding to the miseries of the besieged population.

LNA is one of a number of factions that has vied for power in Libya after the end of Qaddafi’s four-decade rule.

The absence of a strong central government imposing its authority on the whole of Libya’s territory, including its borders, has resulted in a dangerous security vacuum.

The internationally recognized government sitting in the capital Tripoli is yet to make its presence felt. Armed groups, some affiliated with one of the two “competing governments”, attack civilians and civilian properties, abduct people, and seize homes of civilians in reprisal for alleged affiliations with armed groups.

There have been scores of extra judicial executions of fighters and civilians in 2017, notably in eastern Libya. Over 160.000 people remain internally displaced.

The fact is that Libya has become a haven for all kinds of extremist groups, organized crime and illegal arms trafficking, which in turn poses a major threat to neighboring countries.

This country has six direct neighbors — Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia — with common borders totaling around 4,500 km. Unfortunately, some of these neighbors have also been contributing, directly or indirectly, to the instability and raging conflict in that country.

This is one reason why after six years of direct involvement, with six consecutive special envoys, the UN has not been able to end the scourge of violence and help stabilize this North African country.

But the most important is Libyan factions’ unwillingness for any sort of compromise for the common good. They continue to indulge in a catastrophic self-destructive course in which they all believe that one side can win and achieve hegemony over the rest.

Will Ghassan Salame, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), succeed where his five predecessors failed?

Everything depends on how far he succeeds in bringing about a genuine national reconciliation in Libya. This means no faction should feel excluded in case of a political settlement. Only this will pave the way for the constitutional referendum and national elections, which will complete the UN’s plan for peace and stability.

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