Western envoys condemn threats against Libya lawmakers

3 min

Tripoli (AFP)

Western ambassadors on Friday condemned "unacceptable threats" that they said were blocking a vote of confidence by lawmakers in a UN-backed Libyan unity government.

Most of the members of the House of Representatives elected in Libya's last polls in June 2014 have been based in the far eastern town of Tobruk since an Islamist-led militia alliance overran the capital shortly afterwards.

The militia alliance restored the previous, Islamist-dominated parliament elected in July 2012 and established a rival administration to that in Tobruk.

A unity government forged through UN mediation to replace the rival governments has now stamped its authority on most of the levers of power in Tripoli but has yet to win the legitimacy of a vote of confidence from the Tobruk parliament.

The government it installed is refusing to step down until it does so.

Under the UN deal, the Tobruk parliament will be the legislature of the new government, while members of the Tripoli parliament will have mandatory consultative powers.

But lawmakers in Tobruk have repeatedly failed to hold a vote, even though on Thursday evening 102 out of 198 of them issued a statement backing the unity government of prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj.

"We commend the courageous efforts of the clear majority of House of Representatives MPs, who in spite of unacceptable threats to prevent the HoR from living up to its historic responsibility to the Libyan people, expressed their endorsement of the Government of National Accord," the Western ambassadors said in a joint statement.

They voiced backing for plans by pro-unity government lawmakers to convene away from Tobruk.

"We welcome the decision to convene the HoR in a Libyan location that offers security and safety for its members," the joint statement said.

UN envoy Martin Kobler expressed his profound disappointment at the inability of the House of Representatives to hold a vote on the unity government.

"I find it regrettable that yet again a clear majority of members of the HoR are denied the opportunity to exercise their intrinsic democratic right as elected representatives of the Libyan people to uphold the pivotal role of the House as a legislative and monitoring body at this critical juncture of the political process," he said.

Kobler urged the lawmakers "to continue upholding their responsibilities in exercising their duties without obstruction, threat or intimidation".

He said the failure to back the unity government was a "setback to ongoing efforts to bring an end to the institutional divide in Libya and to bring peace to the Libyan people".

The international community sees the unity government as the best hope for oil-rich Libya, which has been roiled by turmoil since the 2011 ouster and killing of veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Concern has been compounded by the expansion of the Islamic State group in Libya, where the jihadists have set up base just 300 kilometres (185 miles) across the Mediterranean from Italy.

People smugglers are also feeding on the chaos, with a surge of illegal migration to Europe from Libya.