US Ambassador Norland: Sirte Should Be a Demilitarized Zone – Al Marsad

The US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, said that the Cairo Declaration on the Libyan crisis issued on 6 June was a good opportunity for negotiations between Libyans from eastern Libya with the Tripoli government to reach a peaceful political solution to the situation as a whole.

(Libya, 11 August 2020) – US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, in a statement to the English newspaper Al-Ahram Gate during his visit to Egypt to hold talks with senior officials there as well as with the President of the Libyan Parliament, Chancellor Aguila Saleh. On the situation in Libya, Norland said: “We believe that the Cairo Declaration will provide an opportunity for a peaceful start to address the confrontation over the Sirte-Jufra line and help resume oil production in Libya, which needs security stability.”

He added that the US would like to help the Libyans restore their national sovereignty over all their lands, noting that his visit to Egypt was very beneficial in the context of recent talks between US President Donald Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as well as between the foreign ministers of the two countries, Mike Pompeo and Sameh Shoukry.

The US Ambassador expressed his hope that an agreement would be reached to provide stability and the exit of all foreign forces from Libya.

On the Turkish intervention in the Libyan affairs, Norland said: “There is no solution to the Libyan crisis except through political negotiation. I believe that the government in Tripoli reluctantly accepted Turkish assistance when the capital nearly fell, but I think that there should be limits to any foreign intervention. We must now seek to end all of those interventions by all parties and not to escalate.”

The US Ambassador believed that the lack of military escalation provides an opportunity to reach a political solution to the situation. “The confrontation between the Turkish forces and those of the Government of National Accord (GNA) on the one hand and the Libyan armed forces could lead to disastrous results in Libya,” added Norland calling on all foreign parties to stop fueling the conflict in Libya, especially those that provide weapons or mercenaries.

He stressed that fulfilling the decisions of the Berlin Conference is a good recipe for ending the conflict, pointing out that the engagement of all stakeholders in supporting the Libyan patriots would pave the way to ending the conflict leveraging the involvement of the foreign powers. He dubbed the Cairo Declaration as positive.

Concerning the US ideas about Sirte, the US Ambassador to Libya said: “One of the ideas that we propose is a demilitarized zone in Sirte, but we are not the only party who proposed that and we hope we can do so. The goal of this proposal is to push all the forces to withdraw and thus neutralize the city instead of becoming a wider flashpoint for the conflict.

“I think we have a chance. I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic. Rather, I see regional powers seeking a long-term ceasefire because the alternative is a large and dangerous regional conflict.”

Regarding President el-Sisi’s announcement last June that Sirte-Jufra was a red line, the US Ambassador said: “We respect President el-Sisi’s statements because they highlight the risks of escalation. The Egyptian officials, as well as President el-Sisi, made it clear to me that they oppose any military move from eastern or western Libya. They oppose any attack on Tripoli and this is necessary to build confidence. This will have a strong impact later on when building stability.”

On the Russian presence in Libya, Norland stated: “Like any other country, Russia has interests in Libya, but it is surprising that it is pursuing these interests through the Wagner Company, which has brought in huge and advanced materiel. This is in addition to other steps that do not help achieve stability in the country.”

The US Ambassador concluded his statement by saying: “During the past two days, we have seen Russia act in a good manner through the Ministry of Emergency to help Lebanon. It is good to see Russia intervening fruitfully in Libya and not in a way that fuels the conflict.”

© Al-Marsad English (2020)