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Op-Ed: Libyan government objects to EU plan to combat migrant crisis

Dabbashi complained his government, even though it is Western-backed, was not even consulted on the issue. He ruled out any EU forces on the ground at this stage. He also said the best way to solve the crisis was to arm the “legitimate” Libyan government, that is the government in Tobruk rather than the rival government based in Tripoli.

He also warned if there is no progress in the UN-sponsored peace talks in the next few weeks, his own government would take the necessary steps to retake the capital by force. His government already is trying to do that and announced an offensive as the first peace talks began. The commander of the armed forces, Khalifa Haftar, has refused to meet with the militia on the other side, Libya Dawn. Dabbashi said his government had been left out of international discussions of the migrant crisis which has seen increasing numbers of desperate migrants die at sea.

Diplomats have been working on a draft Security Council resolution that would authorize a military operation to seize suspected migrant smuggling ships not only on the high seas but in Libyan territorial waters and even on the coast. Federica Mogherini, the EU policy chief, is to outline the plans to the Security Council on Monday. Diplomats claim that Libya’s approval is needed for the operation in its territorial waters and on its coasts. Apparently, they were expecting a request that would allow the operation from the Tobruk government. There is no mention of the role or position of the Tripoli government in all of this. Apparently their position does not matter, actions would go ahead with or without their approval.

Dabbashi asked why Libya should send an approval letter to the Council when they had not been consulted. He said that Libya would not accept any boots on the ground. He also opposed sending more boats to patrol off the coast of Libya complaining that it would just mean more migrants remaining in Libya and being a huge burden on local authorities. He also objected to destroying the smuggling boats saying that it would be difficult to distinguish smuggling boats from other boats. Russia too has objected the destroying smuggling boats as “going too far”. Dabbashi tied in the solution to the migrant crisis with the Tobruk government taking control of the whole country, completely rejecting the whole idea of the UN-sponsored peace talks which is to agree to a unity government and find a political not a military solution. Yet Dabbashi said: “Once the government retakes the capital, Tripoli, and controls the whole western area of Libya, I think it would be very easy to stop this flow of illegal immigrants to Europe because we know everyone who is involved in this business,”

The Tripoli-based government, or the Salvation Government as it describes itself, recently held a meeting of representatives from coastal cities in its area of control together with security agencies, to devise means of combating illegal migration. The government stressed the need to cooperate with the EU in fighting illegal migration and said it was trying to open mutual work-channels with the EU. There is no mention of the specific EU proposals presented to the UN Security Council. The Tripoli government has rejected the description of it as Islamist claiming that it represents all Libyans. The appended video shows a patrol from a Tripoli-controlled area.

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