ISIS IN ACTION
In Benghazi, the areas of Sabri and Souq al-Hout, adjacent to the port in the centre of the city, are the final enclaves controlled by the loose jihadist coalition of Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) and Islamic State (ISIS) fighters. Last week, conflict intensified there as the Libyan National Army (LNA) ramped up airstrikes and artillery fire against the area. On 2 April, a bridge at al-Lathama on the coastal road leading into eastern Sabri was destroyed. The LNA claim that jihadists blew up the bridge to halt the LNA’s westward advance, while the BRSC claimed the bridge was destroyed by LNA airstrikes. The same day, an LNA fighter and a civilian were killed by a sniper as they crossed the Jilyana bridge, east of Benghazi port. On 1 April, two civilians were killed when a landmine exploded in Benghazi’s Gwarsha district.
In Sirte, a semblance of normality is starting to return to the city post-ISIS. Approximately 10,000 families have reportedly returned to their homes, full power and telecommunications access has now been restored, and the flow of water from the Man Made River into the city’s water tanks has resumed. However, although ISIS has been driven out of Sirte, the city effectively remains a no-man’s land between Misrata and the LNA forces in the Oil crescent, and could easily become the site of fresh conflict between the rival factions.
On 31 March, the European Council issued a statement extending the European Union sanctions against three Libyan actors for a further six months: Agila Saleh, president of the House of Representatives (HoR); Khalifa al-Ghwell, prime minister and defence minister of the defunct General National Congress (GNC); and Nuri Abu Sahmain, president of the GNC. Sanctions were initially imposed against these three individuals on 1 April 2016 as they were viewed as obstructing the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The statement added that the EU remains committed to an inclusive political settlement under the framework of the LPA, supported by the UN.
On 29 March, the French ambassador to Libya Brigitte Curmi met with Khalifa Haftar in his headquarters near Benina airbase in Benghazi. She reportedly told Haftar that as far as France is concerned there could be no military solution to the crisis, only a political one. On 28 March, Curmi also met with HoR President Agila Saleh and other HoR members in Tobruk, as did deputy UN Special Envoy to Libya Mario Riberio. The Italian and Dutch ambassadors will meet reportedly meet Saleh in the next few days, while the UK ambassador and members of the British Conservative Party have also met with him recently.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had reportedly decided to appoint Richard Wilcox, a senior official at the World Food Programme who served as director of U.N. affairs in the Clinton White House, as the next UN Special Envoy to Libya. However, reports indicate that before an official offer was made, Russia said it had concerns about Wilcox’s fitness for the job, effectively derailing the appointment. The Trump administration vetoed the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to the position in February. The current envoy Martin Kobler is due to step down this month.
On 29 March, leaders at the Arab League Summit in Jordan gave their backing for the Government of National Accord (GNA), the Presidential Council (PC) and the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj attended on behalf of Libya and he thanked Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia for their efforts to help solve the Libyan crisis. Serraj also criticized the HoR for refusing to accept the PC’s legitimacy and the LNA for recent alleged violations in Benghazi. On 30 March, the eastern government led by Abdullah al-Thinni, issued a statement criticizing Serraj’s speech to the Arab League and condemning the fact that the Arab League “insists” that the PC is the legitimate Libyan representative.
This article was used with explicit permission from the author.