‘Take Your Hands Off Libya’, Says Algeria

Libya’s neighbouring countries have rejected regional and international interference in the restive state, calling instead for the Libyans to reach a settlement to the conflict in their country and solve their problems.

Following a meeting of the foreign ministers of Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Chad, Mali, and Sudan in the Algerian capital, Algiers, on January 23, the same countries said that dialogue between Libya’s warring parties would be the only good means to bring about an end to the problems in Libya.

“We do not speak for other countries, but Algeria is against any foreign interference in Libya’s affairs,” Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum said at a press briefing following the meeting. “This foreign interference has caused the situation to become more complicated in Libya.”

The largest gathering of the foreign ministers of Libya’s neighbouring states, the Algiers meeting is the first to take place in a year.

Libya’s neighbouring states Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia created a coordination and consultation mechanism on the war-torn state soon after it descended into lawlessness in 2011, after the downfall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime.

The mechanism aimed at coordinating their own policies on Libya and preventing the rampant turmoil in it from seeping out of it and into their own territories.

However, inappropriate political conditions in Algeria and Tunisia in the past year prevented the enforcement of the mechanism and consequently the meetings of the three countries’ foreign ministers.

The meeting also comes three days after a conference was held in Berlin on Libya. Those meeting in Berlin were those moving the strings on the Libyan stage, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Most importantly, the meeting comes only days before Erdogan visits the Algerian capital for talks with its president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

The Turkish president, the principal backer of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), has been trying to sway Algeria and Tunisia to join his camp.

Erdogan has sent hundreds of Turkey-loyal Syrian mercenaries to Libya to fight side by side with the militias of the GNA against the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The army – made up of some of the Gaddafi era generals and thousands of Libyan volunteers – has been trying to capture Libyan capital Tripoli and kick the GNA and its militias out it since April last year. Its march towards the Libyan capital gained a new momentum, following the signing of security cooperation and maritime boundary delimitation deals between the GNA and Turkey in November last year.

On December 25, the Turkish president visited Tunisia and tried to convince its president, Kais Saied, to allow Turkish military planes, carrying troops and military equipment to land in Tunisian airports before entering Libya.

However, afraid of needless involvement in the Libyan quagmire, Saied said his country would not be part of any military action in the neighbouring state.

Erdogan will most likely make the same request in Algeria, which shares an extended border with Libya.

However, Boukadoum’s remarks on January 23 portend Algeria’s position on the same issue and its reply to Erdogan when he visits it.

Boukadoum called on countries backing rival Libyan parties to abide by a United Nations arms embargo on Libya.

“We also call on the United Nations to work to enforce this embargo,” Boukadoum said.

He added that his country would work to bring Libyan rival parties together.

Boukadoum said there is goodwill on the part of all Libyans and a desire for peacefully settling the conflict.

“This is a Libyan-Libyan issue,” Boukadoum said. “We have to work hard to end this plight which affects us directly. We have to raise our voices so that people will listen to us.”