Confidence in Libya unity government deal strengthens

Global powers pledge economic and security support at meeting in Rome

US secretary of state John Kerry at meeting on Libya in Rome: Western capitals fear that unless Libya forms a united government Islamic State will strengthen grip on new coastal territory. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

US secretary of state John Kerry at meeting on Libya in Rome: Western capitals fear that unless Libya forms a united government Islamic State will strengthen grip on new coastal territory. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

 

Global powers on Sunday backed the formation of a national unity government in Libya, pledging economic and security support to help stabilise the chaotic north African country, where Islamic State militants have a foothold.

US secretary of state John Kerry and Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni, joined by UN envoy Martin Kobler, were optimistic that most of the representatives of Libya’s two rival governments would sign a unity deal on December 16th.

Delegates from 17 countries, including Egypt, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and China, signed a joint statement calling for a ceasefire and promising to cut off contacts with factions that did not sign the deal. Fifteen Libyans from different groups also attended the meeting. Past deadlines have slipped away amid internal disagreements in the sprawling, oil-producing country.

“We stand ready to support the implementation of the political agreement and underline our firm commitment to providing the government of national accord with full political backing and technical, economic, security and counterterrorism assistance, as requested,” the statement said.

Both Mr Kerry and Mr Gentiloni, who co-chaired the meeting, appeared confident a deal was near, and stressed that a unity government was needed also to fight the growing threat from Islamic State.

“What matters is the stablisation of Libya,” Mr Gentiloni said. “Because this too can contribute to the fight against terrorism.”

Chaos

Italy

Libya is less than 300km by sea from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

With about 3,000 fighters, Islamic State has solidified its foothold in Libya by taking over the central city of Sirte. It has attacked a hotel and a prison in Tripoli and issued a video of its militants beheading 21 Egyptian Christians.

The UN-brokered agreement would allow a new Libyan government to ask for international military assistance to fight Islamic State. – (Reuters)