France calls for urgent set-up of Libya unity government

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 29, 2016 10:41 AM

ALGIERS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it was urgent for Libyan factions to set up a new U.N.-backed national unity cabinet to end factional anarchy and help stop any expansion of Islamic State militants in the North African country.

Libya is caught in conflict between rival factions and their armed brigades, one controlling the capital Tripoli in the west and the other - the internationally recognized government - displaced to the east of the country.

The U.N. deal aims to bring the sides together but the envisaged joint cabinet has been unable to set up in Tripoli and start work because of factional resistance on the ground.

Tuesday's appeal by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault came a day after Libya's displaced eastern government accused its rival in Tripoli of closing down the capital's air space to foil any establishment of a unity administration.

Islamic State militants, also known by their Arabic name Daesh, have expanded in Libya's security vacuum, taking advantage of fighting between the factions to seize the central city of Sirte, attract foreign recruits and attack oil sites.

"There is an urgency for this government to be set up," Ayrault told a news conference during a visit to Algiers. "I think there is no other solution than a political one. Violence creates a state of chaos and helps Daesh to expand."

Led by Fayez Seraj, Libya's eastern government has faced resistance both in the east, where its parliament has declined to vote in favor of the unity deal, and in Tripoli, where the premier of the self-declared government rejects the U.N. plan.

Western nations are keen for unity authorities to be established quickly so they can offer Libya more aid in battling Islamic State there, and help stabilize Libya to curb a flow of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Patrick Markey and Mark Heinrich)