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UN envoy warns ‘foreign interference’ is destroying Libya3 minutes read

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Ghassan Salame, UN Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya./UN

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Ghassan Salame on Saturday warned international players to stop meddling in the Libyan conflict as ‘foreign interference’ was destroying the North African country.

Salame spoke with AFP on the eve of a summit of world powers scheduled for Sunday in Germany to try to bring peace to Libya and its people.

“All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That’s one of the objectives of this conference,” Ghassan Salame said in an interview ahead of the Berlin summit.

Leaders of Russia, Turkey and France are due to join talks in Berlin on Sunday held under the auspices of the United Nations, which wants to extract a pledge from foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop meddling in the conflict — be it by supplying weapons, troops or financing.

Both leaders of the warring factions — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — are also expected at the first gathering of such scale on the conflict since 2018.

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi and toppled his regime.

More recently, Sarraj’s troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar’s forces, with clashes killing more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displacing tens of thousands.

– ‘Vicious cycle’ -Although Sarraj’s government is recognised by the UN, some powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar — turning a domestic conflict into what is essentially a proxy war with international powers jostling to secure their own interests from global influence to oil and migration.

Alarm grew internationally when Ankara ordered in troops early January to help shore up Sarraj, while Moscow is suspected of providing weapons, financing and mercenaries to Haftar — something Russia has denied.

“We must end this vicious cycle of Libyans calling for the help of foreign powers. Their intervention deepens the divisions among the Libyans,” said Salame, noting that the place of international players should be to “help Libyans develop themselves”. 

The UN envoy said Sunday’s meeting will also seek to “consolidate” a shaky ceasefire.

“Today we only have a truce. We want to transform it into a real ceasefire with monitoring, separation (of rival camps), repositioning of heavy weapons” outside urban zones, he said.

The UN had sought on multiple attempts to bid for peace, but talks have repeatedly collapsed.

– Erdogan issues warning -On the eve of the Berlin talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Europe to stand united behind Sarraj’s government, as Tripoli’s fall could leave “fertile ground” for jihadist groups like IS or Al-Qaeda “to get back on their feet”.

Erdogan also played up Europe’s fears of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis in his commentary for Politico news website, that further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for the continent.

Accusing France in particular of siding with Haftar, Erdogan said leaving Libya to the general would be a “mistake of historic proportions”. 

France has denied it was backing Haftar. But a diplomatic source noted that the fact that the general already controls 80 percent of Libya needed to be taken into account.

The European Union is watching with growing alarm at the escalating strife on its doorstep as it counts on Libya as a gatekeeper deterring migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.

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North Africa

Sudan gets new defence minister

Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council said.

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PHOTO: Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin, left, takes the oath as Minister of Defense in front of Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, at the Presidential Palace, in Khartoum, Sudan, on June 2, 2020/ AP

Sudan has sworn in new defence minister, Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, two months after the death of the former defence chief, General Jamal al-Din Omar who died while in neighbouring South Sudan for peace talks with the country’s main rebel groups.

Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council.

The new defence chief came out of retirement to take the position.

His appointment comes a year after long-time autocrat Omar Bashir was toppled in mass protests in April 2019.

“We will work side by side doing our best… to achieve the goals of the constitutional declaration,” the official SUNA news agency quoted Ibrahim as saying after he was sworn in.

The swearing-in came amid tensions with neighbouring Ethiopia over a cross-border attack allegedly conducted by a militia backed by Ethiopia’s military.

Since August last year a transitional government, comprised of civilians and military officials, has taken over the reins of power in Sudan after political factions adopted a constitutional declaration.

The declaration paved the way for the new government to steer the country to civilian rule during a three-year transition.

But the transition has been fragile with the government facing major challenges, including soaring inflation, a huge public debt, tribal clashes and efforts to forge peace with rebels. 

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Tunisia to reopen borders, airspace on June 27

Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.

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Tunisia's new Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh speaks during the government handover ceremony in Carthage on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis on February 28, 2020. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh has announced that the country will reopen its land, air and sea borders from June 27.

He also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.

Fakhfakh made the announcement after a meeting with the national commission to combat coronavirus on Monday.

Tunisia has reported 1,084 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, a Xinxua news agency report said.

The North African country has received support from various countries including China.

On April 16, China donated a batch of medical aid to Tunisia’s Ministry of National Defense, including facemasks, test kits and medical protective googles.

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North Africa

Egypt, France plan to end terrorism in Libya

Both countries showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed the matter during a telelphone conversation on Saturday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have discussed the development of several regional issues, including the situation in Libya.

During a phone call on Saturday, Macron said he is keen to exchange views with Sisi over these issues as Cairo plays a key political role in the region, Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.

For his part, Sisi affirmed Egypt’s firm position towards the Libyan crisis based on restoring Libyan national state institutions, ending the spread of criminal groups and terrorist militias.

He added that Egypt also gives top priority to combating terrorism, achieving stability and security and putting an end to illegal foreign interventions in Libya, a Xinhua news agency report said.

The two presidents agreed to intensify their coordination in the coming period, stressing the necessity to end the Libyan crisis by reaching a political solution that paves the way for the return of security and stability in the country, the spokesman said.

They showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.

Libya has been locked in a civil war since the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Libyan conflict escalated in 2014, splitting power between two rival governments, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli and another in the northeastern city of Tobruk allied with self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.

While Egypt supports Haftar’s LNA that seeks to take over Tripoli, Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA. 

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