Analysis: As ISIL is squeezed in Iraq and Syria, Libya has increasingly become a strategic alternative ground.
Libya’s UN-backed unity government will move to Tripoli from neighbouring Tunisia “within a few days”, its prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj has said in a TV interview.
The government was formed under a UN-mediated peace deal in a bid to end the political chaos and conflict that has beset the country since the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi five years ago.
It is supposed to replace the two rival administrations – one based in the capital Tripoli, the other in the eastern city of Tobruk – that have been battling each other for more than a year.
In a pre-recorded interview with Jordan-based Libya HD channel, Sarraj said on Thursday that a security plan agreed with police and military forces in Tripoli, as well as some armed groups, would allow the UN-backed Presidential Council and the government it nominated to move from Tunis to Tripoli.
We, the government of national accord, will be in the capital Tripoli soon ... within a few days
“We, the government of national accord, will be in the capital Tripoli soon … within a few days,” Sarraj, who also heads the Presidential Council, said.
“The armed groups will remain in their camps until an agreement is found with them about whether their members will be integrated and young people absorbed within certain programmes according the security plan,” he added.
Yet, the unity government has faced opposition from hardliners on both sides of Libya’s political divide – and the prime minister of the government based in Tripoli this week warned it not to move there.
“We say it has no place among us,” Khalifa Ghweil said in a statement, adding that the unity government was “imposed from the outside” and his administration would never let in a leadership “installed” by the UN.
It remains unclear whether some of the many armed groups present in the capital will fight to prevent the unity government from operating there.
The eastern parliament, which received international recognition, has repeatedly failed to vote to approve the unity government, though a majority of its members signed a statement of support last month.
Western powers have been pushing hard for the new government to start work, hoping that it will be able to tackle an expanding threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, both by drawing together Libyan armed factions and by requesting international help.
Sarraj said the Council saw a need to take advantage of the “international momentum” around Libya, though it was up to Libyans to determine their needs.
“If the international community provides assistance I do not think the Libyans would reject that, but within the rules and standards, and according to what Libyans want,” he said.
“Direct intervention is unacceptable, and we have sent that message clearly.”
ISIL has used the security vacuum in Libya to establish a foothold in the North African country, taking control of the city of Sirte and staging attacks on civilian and military targets, as well as against oil facilities.
“Libyans must come together and unite to confront the danger of Daesh (ISIL),” Sarraj said, referring to the group by its Arabic acronym.
He also noted some of the challenges his government would face, including the reintegration of parallel versions of the National Oil Corporation and the Central Bank, as well as tackling a rapidly deteriorating financial situation.
“The government is coming to serve the citizen,” he said. “Our slogan is reconciliation and reconstruction among Libyans.”