Siala made the appeal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the 33rd African Union (AU) Summit is underway.
“It’s the rules, it’s the rules. I did not withdraw and I was not expelled either,” he insists, while pleading on behalf of his government before the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) on Saturday in Addis Ababa. This occurred a few hours before the opening of the AU Summit of heads of state and government of the Pan-African organisation scheduled for Sunday 9 and Monday 10 February in the Ethiopian capital.
“Even at the United Nations Security Council, it is like that. Once you get your message across, you have to leave the room and let the others debate. It’s just an administrative procedure,” the head of Libyan diplomacy added.
He thus dismisses the idea that his gesture could be linked to the presence in the room of Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Egyptian head of state, the outgoing President of the AU. The latter is an active supporter of Marshal Khalifa Haftar who challenges the legitimacy of the Government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of which Siala is a member.
At the head of a self-proclaimed National Libyan Army (LNA) based in Benghazi (east of the country), and supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, Khalifa Haftar controls much of Libya. His troops have been at the gates of Tripoli, the capital, since last April.
A truce came into effect on 13 January, 2020. It was negotiated by Russia, which, despite its denials, is suspected of supporting Haftar’s troops.
An international conference, bringing together eleven countries affected by the Libyan conflict, was held in Berlin, Germany on January 19, 2020. It resulted in a request for an end to all interference in Libyan affairs and for the respect of the UN arms embargo on Libya.
A meeting between the military representatives of the two sides was held on Tuesday, 4 February 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland and it resulted in the transformation of the truce, negotiated by Moscow and Ankara, into a cease-fire.
“My government supports all of these initiatives. The Geneva meeting is the first of its kind where our officers and those of the opposing camp meet. It almost collapsed because of Haftar’s reluctance. The meeting was originally scheduled to take place on January 28 but Haftar’s officers did not attend. It took strong pressure from the international community for Haftar to finally decide to send his representatives,” Mohamed Tahar Siala said.
Libya’s FA Minister went on to say: “Even if the meetings were held separately, I can say that it is an interesting first step, which could lead to something more important and decisive on the ground. But for that, Haftar and his supporters should not sabotage everything. If the international community is serious about helping the Libyans resolve the conflict, it must also press for an end to foreign interference in the Libyan conflict.”
Supposing his request is heard, what about the case of Turkey whose support for one of the camps is openly assumed in both Ankara and Tripoli?
“Turkey intervened in Libya at the official request of the legal government of the country. We have signed a memorandum of understanding that involves a military component and defense cooperation. It is in this context that the Turks support us,” the Libyan Minister explains.
In addition, he protested against the interference of certain foreign powers: “Among the countries that support Haftar, some deny their involvement and others only recognised it after having been caught in the act, like France, which only admitted its involvement after the destruction of one of its helicopters and the death of its soldiers who fought alongside Haftar’s troops.”
In an effort to find a solution to the crisis, Siala offers continental solidarity: “Libya is an African country. Its instability affects the whole continent. This crisis cannot leave our neighbors indifferent. If it is not sorted out, it may overflow into those countries,” he says.
Based on this, he believes that “Africans must get involved in finding a solution to the Libyan crisis. The African Union must play a more active role. It has the capacity, despite the limits of its means and the immensity of the other problems it has to solve.
According to Mohamed Tahar Siala, the Pan-African organisation “can work alongside the United Nations. Collaboration between the two organisations is absolutely necessary. The African Union cannot just sit back in the Libyan crisis.”
In addition, the head of the Libyan diplomacy wants “a Special Envoy of the pan-African organisation to take care of the Libyan issue” so that a happy outcome can be found.