1-8 August: UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame Makes First Official Visit to Libya

Aug 9, 2017 | International actors

An Italian naval vessel docked at Tripoli port last week as part of the controversial Italian naval mission into Libya waters requested by Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and endorsed by the Italian parliament. On August 3, an Italian naval patrol boat, the Commandante Borsini, arrived in Tripoli with a group of experts for a five-day working visit which allegedly ended on August 6. A second vessel is expected to replace it on August 8. The eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) both condemned the move on August 3, with LNA commander Khalifa Haftar calling on Libyan armed and naval forces in western Libya to repel Italian vessels with force should they enter Libyan waters. Those who oppose the Italians see their presence as a violation of Libyan sovereignty and evidence of imperial intent.

According to Abdulsalam al-Mashri who claims to speak on behalf of Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, Saif reportedly echoed the view that Italy wants to re-colonize Libya. He said the relationship between the two countries was destroyed when Italy allowed NATO aircrafts to bomb Libya from their airbases and that this new policy is a repeat of the NATO scenario by violating Libyan sovereignty. Saif was reportedly released from detention in Zintan in June, yet he has made no public appearances since then and it is unclear where he is currently located.

The GNA-affiliated coastguard in western Libya dismissed the threat of armed response by the LNA as angry rhetoric, claiming that such intimidation is politically motivated and hid partisan objectives under claims of protecting ‘sovereignty’. The coastguard stressed the technical nature of the Italian assistance. Minor protests against the Italian naval mission were held in Tripoli on 4 August but there were no signs of significant public remonstrations.

Early last week, the new UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame visited the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the High Council of State (HCS) in Tripoli as well as Ageelah Saleh, the House of Representatives (HoR) president in eastern Libya. Local informed sources say that Salame and Saleh discussed the key amendments to be agreed in the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), including the composition of the Presidency Council and ‘presidential’ elections next March, with no mention of parliamentary elections in the talks.