Exclusive Interview with Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed al-Dairi
- Your Excellence, What's your vision about what is happening in the middle east and in Maghreb region at the end of 2017?
- I would say that North Africa and the Middle East Region have unfortunately witnessed the continuation of some civil strives in Yemen, Syria, and Libya.
The only positive change is that the International Coalition in Iraq has managed to drive out ISIS. However, as we all know, ISIS is not absolutely yet out of Syria. In Libya, we do have some concerns about the reports that ISIS leadership would plan to send DAESH troops to go to Libya, as a safe haven, after the defeat in Syria and Iraq.
Additionally, we have seen some rising threats towards Egypt national security through repeated terrorist attacks. And the last horrible attack in Egypt was 3 weeks ago when a mosque in Sinai was attacked and more than 350 worshipers died in this attack, claimed by ISIS.
I would contend that when it comes to Libya the threat of DAESH, even when it was defeated in 2016 in Sirte, it is nevertheless still active because we know of some pockets of ISIS in the country.
Therefore, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa is still worrisome, not to mention that Tunisia continues to face ISIS threats. Tunisian Security Forces have valiantly managed to foil many terrorist acts by arresting ISIS fighters. However, I would think we still have ISIS threats to our national security in the region.
As to political solutions, we have yet to see their materialization in Yemen, Syria, and Libya. It's something that remains to be finished off by those who are involved in the respective political processes.
- Syrian government managed to clear the problem of ISIS only with the help of foreign powers like Russia and Iran. Does Libyan government need the same to solve a terrorist problem?
- If the International Community and the Security Council were to lift the embargo, that has been imposed on the Libyan National Army, we would be able to curb that threat of ISIS and AL-Qaeda by our own armed forces which have given a lot of sacrifices and have clinched evident victories over terrorist movements inside Libya. I must stress nonetheless that at present our national army has been fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups with obsolete weaponry with Mig-23 (that the Soviet Union stopped to produce since 1982). They are trying to repair these old jet fighters and fight terrorists. We need ammunition, we need anti-explosives equipment, as we have lost a lot of fighters within the Libyan National Army (LNA) because of the lack of sophisticated equipment to detect hidden booby-traps and explosives, especially in Benghazi.
I strongly feel that our Libyan National Army is able to face those challenges that terrorism has posted, but the UN Security Council should lift the embargo imposed on armed forces that we hope to reunify soon.
- For decades, Libya has been a sort of the wall that preserved the millions of migrants coming to Europe, mainly through Italy. After the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi government and his murder by the US, millions of migrants from the whole Africa have flown into Europe. To my mind, it is over the national interest of both Italy and EU to help Libya rebuild its security forces, army, and borders control in order to curb the problem of illegal migration to Europe. Does Libya get any help from EU now?
- What has happened is that on February, Italy signed with the so-called Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli a Memorandum of Understanding so as Italy would assist the Libyan authorities, which in turn would curb irregular migrants flows towards Italy shores. This policy has nevertheless proved to be too dangerous. As you know, a few US millions were paid to militias that had been engaged in human trafficking and irregular migration. Since August, these flows of irregular migrants to Europe have significantly been reduced. In addition, we have come across report about the 'slavery' scandal in Libya that was produced by CNN report.
We must underscore that required assistance and support to Libya would come through bringing an end to the rule of outlawed militias that have been igniting chaos in western Libya.
If Italy and the Eu were to help Libya, they should address the security crisis. What the International community has done since 2015 is that they only focused on the political crisis. However, the Libyan crisis had been caused by some challenges to our national security too by these militias that, while engaging in African slavery, have been abducting some of our national businessmen, bank staff, and wealthy people. Some outlawed militias have been 'selling' kidnapped compatriots to other powerful militias. In turn, the powerful militia would extort ransoms from families and friends of kidnapped Libyans.
Dealing with the African slavery scandal, we have got to acknowledge that slavery targeted Libyans too. Why CNN and the international community have only focused on Africans in Libya? What happens to our brothers and sisters in Africa is unacceptable, it's a crime against humanity. But these crimes have been inflicted upon Libyans too. The media has to be objective and shed light that the militia in western Libya have sparked chaos and have been indulging in slavery vis a vis Libyans and vis a vis Africans at the same time.
- Why do you think the Western Media ignore the fact that Libyans also suffer from the lack of security in the region?
- Because this would be sensational. North Africans are against black Africans - this is a trap that many African Leaders didn't fall into. And they warned others during the summit that took place on 28 November in Ivory Coast that we should not create a gap between sub-Saharan Africans and other Africans from the north.
The report of April 2017, produced by Geneva-based the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed that for instance, we have some rings in southern Libya which have been perpetrating human trafficking and slavery. These criminals involved Libyans, Ghanaians, and Nigerians. And the money the ransom that would be extorted from the families of abductees would be paid in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
Thus, we are faced the African gangs that have not included only Libyans in the raging insecurity caused by the lack of law and order. Yet, the International community has focused only on the political settlement, which is badly needed, but it's not sufficient to address the fundamentals of the Libyan crisis that involves politics, but also security and economic aspects.
Recently, both North Africa and the Middle East have faced another, I would say religious, crisis. Donald Trump announced that the US is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This statement provoked anger among both Muslim and Christian communities all over the world. Why do you think the US is doing this now when Syrian crisis has just a bit smoothened?
This was one of the promises that Trump made during his campaign. But, many other American Presidents had pledged the same but had never shifted the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This decision has provoked an outcry among Muslim and Arab communities, including in Libya. We voiced our concerns at this. Our government issued a statement and we didn't agree with the US decision. We are pleased that almost all the Security Council members voted against this decision, even if The US imposed a veto. We also have been pleased by the overwhelming vote of the General Assembly denying any legal or political rationale to the US decision.
This has given real waves of shock and anger among Muslims and Arabs, including my country Libya.
- How do you think, should Russia play a more important role in the region? Some experts say that in Syria we proved, that Russia can bring peace. If the United States try to regulate or calm down a conflict, usually this conflict gets even worse. Russia and Iran and Syria managed to cope the crisis. Do you think that Russia can help to solve other problems in the Middle East?
- At least for my country, as it was voiced yesterday by the Vice Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia is still supporting the UN-led process together with its readiness to help Libyans if they were to seek Russian involvement.
Aы a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is called upon to play a much more active role in the Libyan issue. As to any other approaches that Russian leadership may decide about Libya, I look forward to hearing any move in this regard. But for the time being, there is no concrete Russian proposal as regards for Libyan situation.