Richard Norland: Departure of All Foreign Fighters is Vital for Libya’s Sovereignty – Al Marsad

US Ambassador and Special Envoy to Libya, Richard Norland, underlined the importance of the role Egypt played in supporting the Libyan peace process in the past year. He said situation in Libya remains fragile, with thousands of foreign fighters still in the country, and critical decisions must be taken in order to lay the foundation of the constitution and legislation needed to hold elections in December in accordance with the Roadmap of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) and the wishes of the vast majority of Libyans.

(LIBYA, 11 June 2021) – US Ambassador and Special Envoy to Libya, Richard Norland, in his interview with Al-Joumhouria Online demanded the departure of all Turkish forces, along with Wagner, Syrian, Chadian and Sudanese fighters from Libya. He stressed that the arms embargo imposed by the United Nations must be respected, and that the departure of all foreign forces was an essential step for Libyans to restore their sovereignty.

Ambassador Norland said the US and Egypt have a common interest in supporting a political rather than a military solution in Libya for the sake of stability, and the presence of foreign forces should not be used as an excuse to delay the elections.

The following is the text of the interview on the Libyan issues:

Al-Joumhouria Online: About the situation now in Libya?

Ambassador Richard Norland: First, I would like to say: It is a pleasure to visit Cairo again. This is my fifth visit to Cairo since I became Ambassador to Libya, and my first in my capacity as Special Envoy. Egypt played a very important role in supporting the Libyan peace process last year, and I look forward to that participation continuing.

The situation in Libya is promising, unlike a year ago, when artillery was shelling Tripoli. A ceasefire is in place and an active political process is underway which has manifested itself in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) and the formation of an Interim Government of National Unity (GNU). However, the situation is fragile, with thousands of foreign fighters still in the country, and critical decisions must be taken in order to lay the constitutional foundation and legislation needed to hold elections in December, in accordance with the LPDF roadmap and the wishes of the vast majority of Libyans.

What about your vision for solving the Libyan crisis?

The vision of the Libyans is the most important. We dealt with Libyans from all over the country and they had different views, but the vast majority of Libyans want elections and want to see foreign forces and foreign fighters leave their country. Libyan leaders under the Interim GNU have already taken steps toward realizing this vision, and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbaiba has worked to unify state institutions and provide funding to the High National Elections Commission (HNEC), which is organizing the elections. The Presidential Council headed by Mohamed al-Menfi has taken steps to promote reconciliation and explore ways to unify the army, but Libyans still face urgent problems that need to be addressed, including the lack of electricity, the Corona epidemic, and the availability of financial liquidity. The US will continue to support Libyans as they pursue their vision through the provision of basic services, elections, and the departure of foreign forces.

What is your comment on the efforts of Egypt and President El-Sisi to end the crisis in Libya? What is the degree of convergence between the Egyptian and US positions?

We are grateful for the role that Egypt played last year in advancing the political process, and we appreciate the partnership that we have developed in this regard.

The US and Egypt have a common interest in supporting a political rather than a military solution in Libya, for the sake of regional stability, security, and economic growth. As we saw progress in the LPDF and the formation of the Interim GNU, Egypt, like the US, expressed its support for this process, especially the elections scheduled for 24 December. The US and Egypt also co-chair the Economic Working Group under the Berlin Process, and we have been able to work closely together in this forum to try to unify Libya’s economic institutions and enhance the economic dimension of the peace process.

What is the position of the US on the Turkish intervention in Libya? Are you optimistic about a breakthrough shortly after the formation of the government?

We have been clear regarding the US position that in accordance with the strong desire of most Libyans as articulated in the 23 October ceasefire agreement reached by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission: all foreign forces and foreign fighters should leave Libya. We have made clear at the UN that Turkish forces, Russian forces called Wagner, as well as Syrian, Chadian, Sudanese and other fighters on both sides of the conflict, need to leave the country. The UN arms embargo must be respected. I see the departure of foreign forces as an essential step for the Libyans to restore their sovereignty. We are under no illusion that this will be easy, but we are exploring with our partners ways that can lead to gradual and reciprocal steps for the departure of these forces.

Does the presence of these forces preclude the possibility of completing the elections?

The presence of those forces should not be used as an excuse to delay the elections; on the contrary, a sovereign Libyan government will, after the elections in December, strengthen the voice of the Libyan people seeking the departure of these forces. It will enable Libya to choose a set of future security partners who can help Libya and meet its national security requirements in a way that enhances rather than undermines regional stability.

What is the reason for your visit to Cairo? What about your meetings with officials in Egypt or the Arab League during the visit?

This is an important opportunity to deepen our diplomatic dialogue with Egypt to support the Libyan political process, especially with the upcoming meeting of the LPDF next week to lay the groundwork for the December elections, and to plan a ministerial meeting in Berlin next month. The multiplicity of my duties as Special Envoy, and my visit to Tripoli last week with Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood, is an indication that the US is willing to play a more active role in support of the political process—facilitated by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. United by Ján Kubiš.

Consultations with Egypt are a key dimension of this and I appreciate the meetings held with senior Egyptian officials as well as with the representative of the League of Arab States.

© ALMARSAD ENGLISH (2021)