Mr. T. Sayala’s appeal is logical, and quite understandable.
Despite difficulties, the head of Libyan diplomacy knows that his country is going through a critical phase, during which it is important for Tripoli to obtain the greatest number of international support.
The re-openings of embassies, 42 of which are active to date, would be an important step in that direction, since they would require – even if it were to become fictitious – a capacity on the part of the Government of National Accord to provide order and stability – failing however to obtain sovereignty – on at least a part of its territory. Libya, however, needs much more to earn the trust of its peers.
The points made by the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs are all fundamental to understanding Libya. But they are accompanied by the need from Libyans, both politicians and citizens, to agree on the nature of the institutions they wish to have. However, such an agreement requires, in addition to a reference text – such as that embodied to date by the Skheirat agreement (2015) – the presence of state-type structures on which to build a real order.
However, these remain to this day nonexistent. And they add to the difficulties that the GNA to gain substantial support for its cause.
Libya continues today to be a point of interest for Westerners because of three main reasons: (a) the impact of instability on the subregion and on terrorism issues; (b) the importance and magnitude of migration issues; and (c) the oil supply.
But this does not compensate for the sense of loss many countries have toward the fragmentation of the Libyan political, military and social landscapes. And we are still struggling to find a way out of the crisis for a country that is struggling to provide even basic standards, and exploitable governance.
This is to say how much the current Libyan situation is likely to continue. And how much the Libyan people would tolorate their troubles, for lack of viable and concrete alternatives.
Libya’s problems are complex, but the way in which European governments perceive them is fairly well known.
A country rich in oil, an important migratory route to the European Union, Libya is also seen by its northern neighbors as a country beset by politico-security instability and the rule of the militias, amid tribal tensions, underpinnings infrastructure development, or political divisions.
Less known among Westerners is the vision that Libyan institutions can have of their own country.
This is more relevant to the remarks made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Libyan National Accord (GNA), Mohammed Taher Sayala, at a meeting he held with diplomats, journalists , businessmen, experts and observers in mid-September 2018 in Madrid, in the premises of Casa Árabe.
Interference and diplomacy
If he considers that economic development remains a privileged engine for the improvement of the political situation in the long term, Mr. Sayala does not deny the fact that Libya owes many of its problems to interferences by foreign countries.
Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are, in his view, part of those states that have subjected Libya, since 2011, to a number of disasters, including the massive proliferation of weapons on a territorial scale.
The result was a form of militarization of the inter-Libyan perspectives, against the backdrop of the reinforcement of armed militias.
Aware of the difficulties of overcoming the Libyan crisis, Mr. Sayala is convinced that diplomatic efforts, including those led by the United Nations, can help to make a positive difference.
Favorable to sanctions – or at least threats of sanctions – against the armed militias in action in Tripoli, Sayala does not see the salvation of Libya other than in the establishment of a power as representative as possible of the tendencies and choices of the Libyan population.
He insists that “minorities”, as well as people representing various ideological tendencies (including Sufis, or the Muslim Brotherhood), must all have their say.
This open display pushes him to even mention the complex case of the strongman of eastern Libya, General Khalifa Haftar, which he neither denies his power, nor the fact that he will have to continue to have a role in Libya.
The migratory drama
There remains the thorny problem of migration. Here, the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs basically sees four priorities to address: (a) The need for the international community to promote more development policies in African countries, the main source of these migrations;
(b) The importance for Europeans to be aware of the fact that priority actions should focus on the southern border of Libya, a preferred crossing point for migrants, rather than the Mediterranean Sea;
(c) The imperative of providing more financial assistance to Libya so that it can solve its problems, in particular in terms of the management of the movements of internally displaced persons and the maintenance of refugee camps; and
(d) The development of more effective policies against traffickers of all kinds, and the deployment of more resources in this direction.
He added that, according to him, Spain still has not developed, for the time being, a policy worthy of its real means in Libya. Although present through the oil company Repsol, Madrid is however noted by Mr. Sayala that the Spaniards are delayed in other areas. And that the Libyans understand even less the delay, that Spain is perceived very favorably, especially because of its support for the revolution of February-2011.
It would be enough, however, that Madrid decides to reopen its embassy in Tripoli as a sign of good will, insists the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs. And to clarify that it is not late to make this decision.