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The US Throws its Weight Behind Libya’s Unity Government, Increases Aid to GNA

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

During a hearing in Washington on Wednesday, Jonathan Winer, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Libya, stressed that the United States fully supported Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), and outlined how America would support the fledgling government both financially and politically.

“Our strategic interest in Libya is to support a unified, accountable government that meets the economic and security needs of the Libyan people, said Winer.

During his testimony with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Winer outlined how the Obama administration was planning on providing Libya with a total of $55.5 million in aid by 2017 in an effort to promote stability in the country.

Currently, the US provides Libya with $35 million in aid, with $4 million going to a United Nations-led stabilization facility that would help repair Libya’s crumbling infrastructure, such as hospitals and water facilities.

An extra $20.5 million has been requested by the Obama administration from congress to help the “GNA function as an inclusive and rights-respecting national government, and support increasing Libya’s security and counterterrorism capabilities.”

Winer urged Libya’s factions to get behind the GNA, “to counter fragmentation, to counter chaos…by working to get Libyans and their neighbors and the region aligned in support of a Government of National Accord to operate in a transitional way to unite Libya and to bring them together in a process of reconciliation that will potentially enable Libya to build a state that functions on behalf of its people.”

He expressed his hope that the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) would endorse the unity government soon, because without reconciliation and the resumption of oil exports, which is down from 1.5 million barrels per day to 400,000, Winer said, “the country could be broke within two years.”

According to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), the eastern-based HoR was established as the GNA’s designated legislative body and was given the responsibility to give its symbolic vote of confidence to the GNA’s cabinet in January, however it has yet to do so.

Winer further urged Libyans to support the integrity of Libya’s core economic institutions, particularly the Central bank of Libya and the National Oil Corporation, “whose unity is vital to the country’s recovery and long-term stability.”

Regarding General Khalifa Haftar, who has been the biggest obstacle to national reconciliation in Libya, Winer said that the US wanted to see Haftar be part of the solution.

“We see him as playing a potentially significant role. But he’s not going to be the only one clearly playing a significant role, and it has to be under the GNA and within the context of a civilian-led government. We’re working on that, and we’re consulting with the UAE and Egypt on that, among others,” he said.

During the testimony, some senators raised concerns that the lifting of the arms embargo, which was place on Libya in 2011, could see weapons in the hands of various militias not aligned to the unity government.

Winer countered that the lifting of the arms embargo would provide a uniform set of weapons to the GNA that can “provide relatively integrated counterterrorism capabilities to address the threat from Islamic State and other terrorist forces.”

He also reiterating that no military campaigns are being contemplated in Libya and that the US was not considering sending military forces to Libya.

“No foreign nations are planning to send military forces to aid Libya,” Winer told the committee on Wednesday. “I am not aware of anything beyond a training and equip mission center.”

Overall, Winer conveyed that the US fully supported the GNA and its efforts to unite Libya under a functioning centralized authority, despite admitting that it had not yet securely established its authority across the country.

The US, along with other western nations, are determined to see Libya establish stability and security by providing the GNA with financial assistance, logistical support, weapons and training to Libyan soldiers.

“Since entering Tripoli, March 30th, 75 days ago roughly, the GNA has been able to demonstrate its commitment to inclusiveness and national reconciliation and has begun the critical work of rebuilding the Libyan state.” said Winer to the committee.”There are lots of grounds for pessimism. There are also grounds for optimism and real progress.”

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