By Sami Zaptia.
London, 7 November 2020:
The Ministry of Interior of the internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tripoli yesterday condemned the arrest of citizens arriving from the eastern region on a flight from Benghazi’s Benina airport to Tripoli’s Mitiga airport.
In its condemnation statement the Ministry said these acts were committed by a group of people to serve their personal interests. It said the arrest does not represent the Tripoli government and does not serve the public interest of the country and undermines the current ongoing negotiations between the western and eastern Libyan factions.
The Ministry said that an investigation was opened into the incident and that legal measures were being taken against the ‘‘armed group’’ that carried out this act.
The incident must be a cause of much embarrassment to the Tripoli Libyan government and Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha. Its timing could not have been worse. Tripoli has been keen to create a positive atmosphere and narrative in parallel with the ongoing UN-brokered virtual and in-person military and political talks.
For example, Tripoli has resumed flights to eastern Libya as well as Sebha, it has attempted to stop media under its control from referring to Hafter as the ‘‘war criminal’’ and has encouraged prisoner exchange. These have been part of what UNSMIL has called ‘‘trust-building measures’’.
The incident can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, as no more than the ongoing existence and behaviour of militias outside the direct control of the Tripoli government. This is a status quo that has existed since the 2011 revolution that ended the Qaddafi era.
Secondly, it could have been a premeditated act by spoilers who have not been included in the dialogue process, or who prefer the status quo, or object to the likely results of the ongoing political talks.
UNSMIL Acting head, Stephanie Williams has warned of anticipated spoilers and vowed to not allow them to scupper the current political talks.
It will be seen if the Interior Ministry will indeed officially name and punish the responsible militia.