North Africa LibyaMissions Operations

Libya: Prime Minister El-Serraj's invitation to the Europeans called into question?

Libyan navy in October 2011 (credit: NATO)
Libyan Navy in October 2011 following the Alliance intervention (credit: NATO)

(BRUSSELS2) Contrary to appearances, there is no real consensus within the Libyan Presidential Council on security issues (army, police, coast guard). B2 received confirmation directly from one of the two members of the Libyan Presidential Council, opponents of the policies of Fagé El-Sarraj, on this point. Omar al-Aswad, who represents Zintan in the Presidential Council. A language that stands out and is interesting.

  • Al-Aswad is not just anyone. After the fall of Gaddafi, he was part of the transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib, as interior minister. Under Gaddafi, in 2007-2008 he was responsible for the fight against corruption, targeting around a hundred members and personalities of the then regime (including Ahmed Miltig, today… vice-president of the Presidential Council… hence some stubborn grudges on both sides). Within the Presidential Council, he represents the city of Zintan, even if he hears “ represent all Libyans ". Zintan is this town west of Tripoli, in the Jebel of Nefoussa, which took an active part in the fall of Gaddafi (Read: The rebels in Tripoli, the hardest part begins?) and is especially opposed to the Misrata militia. She was “expelled” from Tripoli after the airport battle in 2014. And, in a way, she is the ally in the west of General Haftar, present in the east of the country.

Basic safety principles not respected

Al-Aswad believes that certain “fundamental principles” are not respected, that decisions on security and the Libyan army are not going in the right direction and that El-Sarraj's letter asking for help from the European Union to train the coast guard and security forces is zero. “This request is not valid. Because there was no consensus. Article 3 of the presidential agreement provides that any request for agreement must be made consensually. That's the important word. »

Reorganize command before forming

Basically, he affirms that he has no "hostility in principle" to resorting to aid from the European Union, if " we need it precisely and punctually ". But before setting up training, it is necessary to reorganize the coast guard corps which is an integral part of the Libyan navy, victim of allied bombing in 2011. It is “ an important force for the country. We have men and equipment. (…) I see no problem training and equipping them (with the Europeans). Above all, they need real leadership (…). However, there is currently no will within the government to make them work together. “Another subject of concern for our interlocutor: “ make the right choice of men. We must not exclude those who have worked and are still working in this body. "His fear is to see certain men from the militias join this body, while the former coast guards remain" video games at home ».

The southern border, just as or even more important than the coast

The European strategy of concentrating on the coast is also open to criticism. " We have a very long coastline, it’s true. But above all we have 5000 km of borders in the desert, to the south and southwest, with five neighboring countries. This border must be secure. I told Federica Mogherini this on January 8 in Tunis, during a meeting between the Presidential Council and EU ambassadors. Otherwise it's useless. It's like trying to clean a room while the water keeps coming. First you have to close the pipe…” A southern border through which not only illegal migrants but also weapons, luggage, money, etc. pass. A border which greatly worries the countries of the Sahel, and France exposed on the front line in Mali, Niger and Chad.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read full interview: Army, police, coast guard… why I refuse the policy of El-Sarraj (Omar al-Aswad)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).