Libya needs international community’s help to defeat Islamic State – Al-Badri

Libyan deputy prime minister says Libyan army needs support to tackle Islamic State and prevent it from becoming stronger

Deputy prime minister Abdul Salam al-Badri was in Malta reassuring oil companies wanting to do business with the Tobruk NOC. Photo: Chris Mangion
Deputy prime minister Abdul Salam al-Badri was in Malta reassuring oil companies wanting to do business with the Tobruk NOC. Photo: Chris Mangion
Libyan deputy PM 'We need international support to defeat Islamic State'

Libya’s peace process is passing through a hard time but deputy prime minister Abdul Salam al-Badri says there is still room for agreement between the country’s warring factions.

Delegates for Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk recalled its team from the United Nations peace talks with Tripoli, complaining about amendments to a draft agreement meant to end their conflict.

A deal was expected to be reached by 20 September for an agreement to have a national unity government after a rival administration took Tripoli in 2014 and infighting continues between respective militias.

“The dialogue is passing through a very hard time,” al-Badri told MaltaToday. “My hope, the way I see it, is that concessions are given and that we come to an agreement. There are very serious differences, but with the help of the international community they will pressurise the guys who are opposing peace, indirectly.”

Al-Badri was addressing a meeting held in Malta by the eastern National Oil Corporation, which has warned companies working with the Tripoli NOC that it will take them for legal arbitration if they don’t work with them.

The meeting was conspicuous by the absence of Libyan prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni, was stopped at Labraq airport by forces led by Khalifa Haftar, who have been fighting militias loyal to the Libya Dawn movement in Tripoli.

“Yes there are some security gaps here and there, but don’t forget that the country is fighting two or three serious wars. You are governing and ruling a country that is almost under a civil war,” he said of the tribal infighting between various militias.

Al-Badri also tried to reassure oil firms present for the NOC meeting at the Hilton,St Julian’s, that Tobruk’s oil faciliaties were under secure military control and unaffected by the operations of Islamic State, or Daesh, located around the city of Derna.

“Hopefully the international community will help the Libyan army tackle Daesh,” al-Badri said. “I have said that Daesh might not be too strong… if we don’t let them. Daesh is run by foreigners… Libyan involvement is not as big as anticipated, they number maybe 2,000 or less.”

Al-Badri said the international community had to lift the weapons embargo on the Libyan army. “They must allow us to have the equipment to defend the country,” al-Badri said.

The UN deal for a unity government is the only solution to the Libyan conflict, which has pushed the North African state to the edge of economic collapse four years after the rebellion ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

UN envoy Bernardino Leon announced earlier this week that the two sides had reached a consensus and would soon name candidates for a unity government.

Leon played down the differences between the two sides and said it was normal to have such debates in the final stages of the talks. “There is still a lack of trust... I think the closer we are to the possibility of a final agreement, the more we will see tough positions,” he told reporters late on Tuesday in the Moroccan town of Skhirat.

Negotiators from both sides are under pressure from hard-liners: armed forces on both sides are loose alliances of former anti-Gaddafi rebels who turned against each other or whose loyalties are more to tribal or regional allegiances.

The NOC also told conference guests in Malta that Libya’s turmoil had allowed Islamic State militants gain ground and human smugglers take advantage of the chaos.

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