Updated | Libya’s two parliaments battling for Maltese government recognition

Maltese government caught in between Libya’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives and Tripoli-based National Salvation Government

The saga of two rival Libyan administrations has spilled over to Malta which is now caught in a diplomatic battle. Two men, both claiming to be the authorised charges d’affaires at the Libyan embassy in Malta, want to enjoy the sole recognition of the Maltese government.

The dispute started after two parliaments were set up in Libya: the first, which is recognised by both the European Union and the United Nations, is the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR); the second is the National Salvation Government (NSG) based in Tripoli.

The Tobruk parliament, led by Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni, was elected in June. In August, the General National Congress (GNC) appointed Omar al-Hassi as prime minister and formed “a salvation government” based in Tripoli.

Elected in June, the HoR replaced the GNC, ending the political dominance that factions linked to the Muslim Brotherhood had in the legislature. But the outgoing Islamist-dominated parliament had refused to recognise the new parliament, which is dominated by liberals and federalists, and the NSG was formed.

Malta, which always enjoyed friendly relationships with the North African country, has followed the European Union and the United Nations in recognising Al-Thinni’s parliament as the sole representative of the people of Libya.

But a recent decision of Libya’s Supreme Court has now put into question the legitimacy of the Tobruk government, claiming irregularities in the elections held. Only 2% of the 1.5 million registered voters took part in the elections.

Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella has already made it clear that Malta would not be forced to choose sides, as this was neither Malta’s duty nor competence. Instead, Vella called for the both sides to come together round a table and discuss things, with the help of UN special envoy Bernardino Leon.

But this morning, Hussain Misurati accused the Maltese government of interfering in Libyan affairs by not recognising the Tripoli-based government. Misurati is the charge d’affaires appointed by the NSG.

“We are building a nation and it will be unprecedented if Malta expects us to be an anarchy. We respect the rule of law. Now that there has been a decision by the Supreme Court, Malta must respect this decision,” Misurati, who took office in November 20, said.

“The Maltese government has been for a very long time encouraging dialogue in Libya, which is what the Salvation Government is also doing.”

He said, that the verdict of the court had to be respected warning that if the judiciary were to fall, the entire country would fall too.

Misurati accused the government of taking sides, after the latter recognised Al-Habib Al-Amin as the official representative of the Libyan government in Malta. Al-Amin is the representative of the Tobruk-based HoR, which so far enjoys international recognition.

He also said that repeated requests to meet the Foreign Affairs Minister have gone unheeded. According to Misurati, the NSG was in contact with other European and African states and would soon be recognised as the legitimate government.

Newsrooms this morning also received an email from Al-Habib Al-Amin saying that Misurati was “occupying the embassy illegally”, adding that he was the legal representative of the internationally-recognised government.

In a reaction, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the Maltese government has no intention of interfering with Libya’s internal affairs.

“The Maltese government has always acted in conformity with and guided by the recommendations of the United Nations and the European Union. This is a delicate situation and the Maltese government has been taking part in serious attempts to strengthen dialogue in Libya,” the ministry said.

This dialogue, the ministry added, would result in a transitory government built on peace and a constitutional that was still being written.

“The Maltese government remains committed on seeing the people of Libya living in peace and serenity. It is with regret that we witness this division in our neighbours,” the ministry said.

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