Martin Kobler is the General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (Unsmil). During this week he spoke with the Italian newspaper“Il Mattino” in an interesting interview by Valentino Di Giacomo (journalist Ofcs.report) about the situation in Libya and the conflict between Sarraj, Haftar and Ghwell.
You congratulated the Libyan people on freeing Benghazi from ISIS last week. This military operation in Ganfuda was launched by Haftar’s troops and not by Sarraj’s militias. Were you implying in your tweet that Sarraj’s time is over?
I commend all Libyans who have sacrificed their lives fighting terrorism. I have repeatedly commended ABAM and LNA for ridding Libya of terrorist groups. Defeating terrorism is a common cause and benefits all Libyans. President Sarraj and the PC have also praised the sacrifices of the ABAM and LNA in liberating Qanfouda.
Two weeks ago a car bomb exploded near the Italian embassy in Tripoli and Sarraj accused Haftar of this terror attack. Do you consider this hypothesis to be plausible?
I am not aware that President Sarraj accused General Haftar of being behind the explosion in Tripoli.
Do you think it was a good choice on Italy to re-open its embassy in Tripoli?
The decision of Italy to re-open its Embassy is a very positive sign and strong demonstration of support to all Libyan people in Tripoli and in other parts of the country. I encourage others to follow suit.
Sarraj urged the UN to lift the arms embargo. Do you believe that this request might be accepted by the United Nations?
The United Nations will reconsider the arms embargo on Libya once there is a reliable, united and coherent military and security apparatus, under the command of a civilian authority.
Russia is likely to supply weapons to Haftar and set up new military bases in Libya. Do you consider this assumption to be well-founded?
Russia is a member of the Security Council and is committed to the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement and supports an inclusive political solution in Libya.
U.S. president Obama was in charge of military operations against Isis in Libya. Do you believe Trump will follow suit?
All member states have an interest in a safe and stable Libya free from terrorist groups.
Will the scenario be changing in Libya under Trump’s presidency and do you agree with him on his decision to withdraw visas for Libyan people?
I didn’t yet have contact with the new US administration so I do not want to speculate. On the visa issues, the UN Secretary-General has already said that this violates our basic principles and does little to stem the threat of terrorism. SG Guterres said that these measures should be removed sooner rather than later.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, claimed that without any political stability in the Country, trade agreements with Libya are not likely to be initialled ? Do you think it is good foreign policy?
Any economic exchange needs stable conditions, security and state institutions. That is why it’s important now to work together with the Government of National Accord to implement the Libyan Political Agreement, have a government, police and army in place and demobilize the armed groups. Then economic prosperity will follow suit.
Some Italian papers wrote that you are not in good terms with the EU Foreign Commissary, Federica Mogherini, Can you confirm that? Have you put forward the same EU strategy for the Libyan situation?
I have the best personal relationship with Frederica Mogherini you can think of. I met with the EU Vice-President Mogherini very recently, on 24 January, and discussed the political situation in Libya. We are even in regular SMS contact. I admire her commitment to bring European foreign policy ahead, a herculean act she manages masterfully. The UN and the EU share a unified vision on Libya and that is an inclusive political solution in the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement.
Sarraj, Ghwell, Haftar are fighting each other. Is it possible to reach an agreement among all Libyan factions? What do you expect of Libya’s future?
I believe that 2017 must be the year of decisions and political breakthroughs. The past month has been full of discussions aimed at creating consensus on the key issues on the political, economic, security and humanitarian fronts. I have been actively reaching out to all Libyan stakeholders in addition to Libya’s neighbours and the international community to advance the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement. Working with all regional actors, we have been facilitating dialogues across the Libyan political spectrum to identify obstacles hampering the implementation of the Agreement, propose possible solutions to the political stalemate and create a convergence of views. I believe there is now growing consensus that there is no military solution to the conflict and that the solution remains within the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement. I am especially encouraged by efforts of the region to use their leverage to support dialogue among Libyans and to help create consensus on the key issues regarding the implementation of the LPA.
Over the last few days electricity supplies in Libya have been cut off and, what’s more, the situation is getting more and more serious in the South of the Country. Is there a way out? And when it comes to oil wells, how is this situation developing?
Power and water outages continue in the West and the South of the country. The situation is improving slowly, but improving. Members of the House of Representatives from the south who suspended their membership of the parliament on January 17 in protest over lack of basic services are now working with relevant authorities re-establish these services in southern Libya and to return to Parliament. I am optimistic. The 2017 budget has now been approved and the first tranche of money was transferred to the Minister of Finance of the Government of National Accord. Steps are also being taken to address issues of inflation, liquidity and healthcare. Oil production has increased to over 700,000 barrels per day. President Sarraj has personally visited the different regions and sectors and promised financial and administrative support from the Presidency Council. I am looking forward to see improvements on the ground.