UK Telegraph – PM Fayez al-Sarraj says: ISIS is not our greatest enemy. National division is.

(Republished from The Telegraph)

Faiez Serraj meets with local mayors in Tripoli (CREDIT: MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP)

When more than 20 of the world’s foreign ministers gather in Vienna this week for a summit on Libya, they will exhibit the sort of unity that should inspire Libyans to come together to restore peace, justice and national accord to our country.

Libya is emerging from crisis. After over a year of dialogue we now have a legitimate, internationally recognised government, formed under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) of December 17, 2015. We  are back on the right path and heading in the right direction. We are reinstating government and reuniting our divided institutions, from the National Oil Company to the central bank and the Libyan Investment Authority. We are working to resolve the cash crisis and return liquidity to our banking system to ease the hardships faced by our people.

Libyans now have a government that is getting a grip. We have a clear programme that prioritises security, national reconciliation, economic recovery and development, social justice,  institutional reform and international cooperation. Libyans desperately require basic public services, and we are committed to delivering them.

The author meets with British foreign secretary Philip Hammond in Tripoli CREDIT: AFP/GETTY

We will start with security, preserving Libyan sovereignty and unity – establishing this will be the bedrock of political and economic progress. We have launched the restructuring of our Armed Forces with the creation of the Presidential Guard, the basis for securing the government and vital institutions. We have established a special operations room between Misrata and Sirte, to be followed soon by a central command operations facility. These are the first nails in the coffin for our common enemies, the terrorists. And as our partners will discover in Vienna, the international community now has a reliable ally, supported nationwide, that it can do business with.

Yet Libyans and the international community both need to be realistic about where we are. It will take time to recover from the disarray and division.

The international community has responsibilities towards Libya. After 2011, it simply let go. This allowed many countries to intervene and led us to where we are today. But as Libyans we also need to take a hard look at ourselves and reform our conduct. Instead of behaving responsibly as statesmen, politicians have bickered needlessly while Libya has imploded. We have lurched from tentative steps towards democracy in 2011 into renewed violence and disorder today due to a complete breakdown of national unity.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, right, tours a naval base with Libya’s prime minister-designate CREDIT: BEN BIRCHALL/PA WIRE

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is not our greatest enemy. National division is. The stark lesson from the past five years of turmoil is that when Libyans fail to work together they empower those who would destroy our country. National unity is the most effective weapon against these nihilistic purveyors of hatred and bloodshed. Terrorists will be defeated by our Armed Forces uniting under civilian command, not rival militias rushing to claim a political prize.

When it comes to defeating Isil, I remind our friends that this will be achieved by Libyan efforts and without foreign military intervention.We are not asking for foreign boots on the ground, but we are requesting assistance with training, and lifting the arms embargo on Libya. It makes no sense to thwart our efforts when we are embarking on this critical fight against a merciless but vulnerable enemy. I call for an immediate end to the UN sanctions under which vital Libyan assets overseas are frozen. We need these resources to defeat the terrorists.

I understand that for many in Europe the issue of migration and illegal people-smuggling from Libya is of enormous concern, and we will work tirelessly to bring this to an end. But the best way to put people-smugglers out of business is to ensure that Libya is stable and secure, flourishing through economic reform. This is the only viable long-term solution. Foreign boots and foreign boats are not the answer.

A building on fire, which witnesses say was hit by a rocket, burns after clashes between rival militias in the Sarraj district in Tripoli, 2014 CREDIT: ISMAIL ZITOUNY/REUTERS

I take this opportunity to stress that all states must work only with legitimate institutions according to the LPA. Some activities are undermining our efforts and will merely intensify the conflict.

Oil production has collapsed, terrorist activity has risen alarmingly and our economy is in great peril. Youth unemployment stands at unacceptable levels. The scale of the challenges facing us is monumental. I know we will succeed, but this will only happen by Libyans uniting and working together.

Looking ahead, I say to all Libyans that no one group or region can expect to predominate. We must learn quickly the art of political compromise in the new era of representative government. It is a question of balance, equality and moderation. This is what we fought for together during the revolution and this is what too many Libyans lost their lives for. The only way to honour the martyrs’ sacrifice is to build a better Libya for all Libyans. In Vienna I will pledge my government’s unswerving commitment to do exactly that with our friends in the international community.

Faiez Serraj is the Prime Minister of Libya

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