United Kingdom: We Will Work Hard to Support the Departure of Foreign Forces from Libya – Al Marsad

SPECIAL | The British Ambassador to Libya, Nicholas Hopton, said it was important to respect the voice of the Libyan people who are demanding the departure of foreign forces from the country.

(LIBYA, 30 March 2021) – UK’s Ambassador to Libya, Nicholas Hopton, stated on his Twitter account: “We will work hard to support achieving this [departure of foreign forces], so that Libya can move to elections at the end of this year, regain its full sovereignty, and its people to be represented.”

The British ambassador said that his country looks forward to seeing the Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity, Abdul Hamid Dbaiba holds elections at the end of the year as expected by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). He stressed that he wanted Libyans to benefit from services and return to normal life throughout the country.

During an exclusive and extensive interview on Libya’s Channel on Sunday, the British ambassador indicated that his country will work with the Libyan interim government as part of the international community’s effort to achieve a better future for Libyans.

“It is hard to understand why anyone would try to intervene in any process that has the support of Libyans and is supported by democratic voices in the House of Representatives (HoR) at this phase.” He added, “I believe that the international community and the Security Council will hold accountable anyone who tries to obstruct the constructive process in Libya and the future of Libyans.”

Hopton expressed Britain’s strong support for the implementation of the full ceasefire agreement, and stressed the need for foreign forces to leave the country without any delay.

AlMarsad publishes here the English translation of the full interview by the Ambassador Hopton with Libya’s Channel.

THE INTERVIEW

Libya’s Channel | The Government of National Unity (GNU), went from Geneva to Tripoli, Sirte, Tobruk and gained confidence. After gaining confidence and the handing over of power, how does the UK see the next phase for Libya and the GNU?

Ambassador Nicholas Hopton | In the UK, we are pleased with the progress achieved over the last months in Libya. This progress has been led by Libyans, and from the LPDF that led to the candidacy and then the granting of confidence to Dbaiba’s government, these things are worth appreciation not only in Libya but internationally. There is now hope that Libya will become more stable and there is hope for a better future for all Libyans. UK strongly supports this progress in many ways.

We have worked hard as a member of the international community, and President of the UN Security Council with our embassy here in Libya to help achieve progress. We look forward to the progress that Dbaiba will make from now on. I have already had some very fruitful discussions with the Prime Minister and his new Foreign Minister, as well as the Ministry of Interior and other ministers. I was honored to attend the meeting in Tobruk in the presence of Aguila Saleh and the HoR, and their approval of the new government. I consider it as a very positive development to unite the country behind the new political authority.

What we would like to see is the same as stipulated in the mandate of the government. We would like to see Dbaiba hold elections at the end of the year as expected by the LPDF, and would like the Libyan people to benefit from services such as electricity and water this summer, when the weather becomes hot. We want to see Libyans return to normal life, all over the country, to see the country unite together, as a whole structure, not a torn state. This is what we want to see and to support are the security, economic and political aspects. The UK will work with the Libyan government as part of the international community in order to achieve a better future for the Libyan people.

You have felt the daily suffering of Libyans citizens, what can the UK provide for Libyan institutions to get out of ordeal, in terms of advice, support, assistance and concrete cooperation?

When Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK, called Dbaiba, he explained to him that the UK will continue to support Libyans and the legitimate government in this new and constructive phase, and we will support it by other ways through our embassy including the economical cooperation, as well as security, such as the clearance of mines from the recent conflict. However, we work together in many other ways, we have a very large budget allocated for projects to support the Libyan people.

We do much to support the holding of elections, and we want to empower Libyan women so that they have a voice and can contribute to stability in Libya.

All Libyans are looking forward to 24 December, the date of the next Parliamentary and Presidential elections, what will be the position of the UK on those who try to obstruct them, whether from local and international parties?

It was clear that the will of the Libyan people was expressed through the process led by the United Nations, which brought Libyans together from all over the country, during the LPDF, and the results of that process were set out in the roadmap and through the nomination of the new government and presidential council approved by the HoR. I think it is very difficult to understand why anyone would try to intervene in any process that has the support of the Libyan people, and is backed by democratic voices in the HoR at this phase. I also think that the international community and the Security Council will hold accountable anyone who tries to obstruct the constructive process in Libya and the future of Libyans, which seems much more positive now.

The UK is a member of the Security Committee responsible for monitoring Berlin’s outputs, as well as a penholder in the Libyan file in the Security Council, which leads us talk about the security aspect in Libya. What are the latest opinion on this issue with respect to Libya’s international partners?

The UK is supportive of achieving greater stability in Libya, and we are engaged in many ways in the Security Council, where we have a word in drafting resolutions on Libya. We have drafted some critical texts on which the latter process is based, in addition to the progress made last year. I think that recently we have played a role in the Berlin Agreement, and I think what the 5+5 Joint Military Commission has done is good—it negotiated and agreed on a ceasefire. This forms the basis for your country’s future security, and the UK strongly supports the implementation of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement. So far, we have witnessed some positive developments such as the exchange of prisoners between the various parties to the previous conflict, we want to continue to do so. We are very encouraged by the discussions, and we expect the same from the entire international community, and from Libyans in particular, and the foreign forces must leave the country without any delay.

23 January was supposed to be the deadline for all mercenaries to leave Libya but they did not comply with this date, which is one of the most important provisions of the ceasefire agreement by the military committee. Will the UK take any unilateral measures to hold accountable and punish those who obstruct the implementation of the terms of the 5+5 agreement? Will there be sanctions issued by the Security Council collectively?

It is very clear that the ceasefire negotiated by the Libyan army is that all foreign forces have to leave, and there are a group of different foreign forces inside Libya and the 5+5 set the deadline in January—which does not mean that the condition of foreign forces have changed—and the international community has made it clear that they support the ceasefire. The Security Council has issued statements in this regard, which is based on a series of United Kingdom resolutions in recent years. It is important to respect the voice of the Libyan people, which is evident in the new Libyan government. We in the UK, along with our partners, whether the Security Council or other international groups, will work hard to support this, so that Libya can move towards the end of the year’s elections and the possibility of regaining its full sovereignty.

Last March, local media in the UK announced the British government’s plans to cut British aid to Libya and to other countries because of the repercussions of the financial crisis as well as COVID-19. How do you see and evaluate its impact? Is there a plan to support Libya?

The UK remains one of the most generous international aid donors to countries around the world. We have had to slightly reduce the overall foreign aid budget because of the financial challenges posed by COVID-19. Currently, we are still providing substantial assistance including Libya. I am pleased to say that we are continuing to implement a full range of projects at this time to support Libya to move towards elections through providing assistance and election experts.

We are working to make Libya safer by providing experts in mine and explosive ordnance clearance in conflict areas, and we provide other experts in many ways, including supporting women and girls. One example of this is continuing to support scholarships that have allowed many young Libyans to study at UK universities over the past twenty years. We will continue to run that program this year, which is a valuable part of our cooperation, and I am very happy when talented Libyans come back from those UK universities and contribute to building a better future for Libyans.

As an observer of Libya, how do you arrange the files of the Libyan crisis in terms of political, security and economic order?

I think it is hard to separate the various aspects of the challenges facing Libya now, and I mentioned economic and political security. We can recall other challenges facing the country such as health. It is clear that the COVID-19 crisis has affected all of us, every country, and the new government are trying to ensure that Libyans have access to the vaccine, and that the state will deal effectively with COVID-19 as soon as possible. The UK will support this in every possible way using our shared expertise and our own experience to provide COVID-19 vaccine, which I am pleased to say is achieving positive results in our country.

I see there are a set of challenges, but in general I think you need to view the security, political and economic challenges as something that everyone needs to address. At the same time there is an urgent need; your country has entered a new phase and you have a new government that will unite the country, and we want to see that it produces unified security, where all Libyans can live a peaceful life without threat from any group or individuals and the rule of law applies throughout the country. However, at the same time, we can see your economy open to doing business again internally and internationally. British companies are looking to work again as they were in Libya; but to do so, you need security, and of course you cannot do these things unless the political process continues to move forward, as well as the leadership of the government as set forth by the LPDF and from the vote confidence by the HoR. Therefore, I think you need both political and economic security, and we will look forward to it under Dbaiba’s government. The UK and its partners will support this, and the result should be the holding of elections on 24 December, which will allow Libyans, for the first time in recent years, to choose their representatives and give full reaffirmation of Libyan sovereignty over the entire state.

From your words we see that UK is clearly interested in Libyan affairs, and you have have made frequent visits to the capital Tripoli. When will we see a permanent reopening of the UK Embassy in Libya? Will the Consular section reopened too to allow Libyan citizens to obtain visas for the United Kingdom?

The UK has had a diplomatic presence in Tripoli again since December, and we were out of the country last year for a short period of time, but before that we were present until recent years. I am very pleased that we were able to come again to Libya and are more present now. In addition to my previous visit, I visited Tobruk last week, and I look forward to getting to know your country better in the coming months now that moving has become possible.

I think you will see increasing cooperation in many ways over the coming period, and the UK government will work with Libyans and the new Libyan government to ensure elections happen later this year.

Unfortunately, visas and how to issue them at the moment will remain processed from Tunisia. I realize that this sometimes causes a challenge for Libyans who want to visit the UK, and it is very difficult to travel due to COVID-19 currently. But I hope that when things return to normal in terms of international travel, we will increasingly see Libyans going to the UK, and the British people coming to Libya; however, the consular arrangements for visa issuance are unlikely to change for now.

I congratulate Libya on the progress made in recent months. It has been very encouraging to see how Libya has moved forward, and the UK will continue to support progress towards a united Libya. I congratulate you on the government you have created, and we look forward to supporting progress towards delivering services and making the lives of Libyans better than they have experienced in recent years, and of course, to hold elections at the end of the year. My message is a message of congratulations and solidarity on behalf of our government to the Libyan people and an expression of how much my colleagues and I appreciate the support, welcome and hospitality that we have enjoyed from our Libyan friends in Libya.

© ALMARSAD ENGLISH (2021)