Transcript of the Special Envoy’s Interview with BBC
Transcript of the Special Envoy’s Interview with BBC
27 March 2021 - Tripoli
BBC Reporter: Thank you very much for speaking to us today. The government's number one priority here in Libya, should be what?
Special Envoy: First of all, their people, and the unity and the sovereignty of their country. And of course, they have to make sure that after the government received the legal vote of confidence, the constitutional vote of confidence they would like to get also [inaudible] the popular vote of confidence in that can be done only through a very clear process of democratic elections, that's why the government itself, and the whole interim executive authority, put for themselves holding the elections on the 24th of December of this year.
BBC Reporter: Libyan Independence Day 24th of December, but that's a very tight deadline.
Special Envoy: Yes. It is a tight deadline, but it's not impossible. But of course, again it starts at it all the institutions and authorities of Libya. Either they deliver and they have to do deliver to make it happen and to honor their pledges. Because everyone is saying yes to the 24th of December elections should take place, so either they will work for it and honour their pledges - and then technically it can be done. If not, if they would find pretexts excuses for not making it happen – they start to say that things must be first ensured here and ensured there before moving to the elections, that would be the surest way how to postpone them, and I hope that this will not happen because the people of the country they would like to have the elections. [inaudible] it is the wish of the people of the country to have the elections on the 24th of December.
BBC Reporter: And how important is it that the current officeholders stick to their pledge not to stand again?
Special Envoy: This is important, but from my perspective, the most important thing at this point of time is to have the Parliament, the HoR [House of Representatives] to move and to endorse, validate the constitutional basis for the elections, based on the - prepared in a way - way forward, and then to legislate and to adopt the necessary election laws, and then again can be done only by the HoR. That's why the responsibility, the duty, the onus, is on the HoR at this point in time.
And to do it in an extremely short period of time or maybe one month and a half maximum because the chairman of the High National Elections Commission said very clearly “If I don't have this piece of legislation by the 1st of July, he cannot have the elections on the 24th of December.
BBC Reporter: Libya is being here before with the unity government and end of 2015 we saw in unity government take shape in 2016. What's different this time?
Special Envoy: While everything is different if you wish. You can start with the fact that indeed this government is recognized, accepted all around the country, and indeed represents by large the country’s different segments, communities, cultures, and others, and this is a massive difference.
One confirmation of this is the fact that the competing governments that emerged after the events that you mentioned, handed over, transferred their powers, authorities their files if you wish as well to the new government almost immediately after the government took the oath. So that's a massive difference if you wish. In addition, this government has received a vote of confidence from the Parliament, not only from one part of the parliament but from a united parliament that came together to consider the vote of confidence and within a very short period of time decides to give the vote of confidence and that’s another massive difference to remember. And the same happened with the Presidential Council and the Presidency of the Presidential Council.
Then you have the external factor, but it was the internal factor, a domestic factor that was missing unifying. That's why it was so difficult for the government of President Serraj to operate in the country. Now it's a different story.
But you have also the external factor, and at this point in time, I believe that it is very encouraging to see the basic alignment of the international community behind the developments and endorsing, encouraging, and working for keeping this momentum - encouraging the national domestic players to go and work together.
But again, let's not forget it is an interim Government and one of the tasks they put for themselves is to prepare the country for the elections on 24 December this year.
BBC Reporter: An what about General Haftar?
Special Envoy: General Haftar and many others are working and contributing to the government. Have you seen anything to the contrary? I myself have not.
BBC Reporter: A leopard can change its spots.
Special Envoy: Well, one can have different interpretations, but in any case, what I see at this point in time is what I see.
BBC Reporter: A huge number of mercenaries were fighting in the civil war, from a number of countries, from Russia, from Turkey, from Sudan... Now the fighting has largely stopped, should those mercenaries now be sent home.
Special Envoy: I would be more cautious about saying that mercenaries from this from that, etc, because each of the countries that you mentioned they would have their own clear line on their alignment and support.
But true. There is a large number of mercenaries that were and are in the country, and I know one thing from my meetings here in the country, from my discussions with the Society of Libya, no one wants them here. They must go. It's a very clear message.
Yes, true, this is a transitional period, but everyone would like to see the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, and definitely must start with the departure of all foreign forces or mercenaries from the country. It doesn't work the other way around.
Libya would not be able to put their act together, its act together. Without having first the mercenaries, this kind of force leaving the country.
BBC Reporter: And you mentioned earlier in one of your earlier answers that domestic factors are really driving this process and external factors to some extent is one of those large external factors, the fact that we saw. Uhm? Suddenly we saw the war here get deadlier.
Special Envoy: I would say yes. I would say that, but I'm again getting from my Libyan partners and friend, is that they are shocked and appalled to see the degradation and something that is not necessarily part of their culture. Therefore, when they saw the horrendous acts of different foreign mercenaries, but also different domestic militias, including what was happening in Tarhuna, for example - That is a shock, and that's why now they are united.
This phase must be over. The onus is now on the politicians to move us through the next phase, and in the meantime remove the foreign mercenaries and foreign forces out of the country. Because this must not be repeated.
Part of that is also justice and accountability.
BBC Reporter: We were there yesterday. We stood by those mass graves. They're still finding bodies.. [inaudible]
Special Envoy: Yes.
BBC Reporter: I know that time was terrorized for years. How does? What's the chance of justice for the people? You know that there are suspects who have been sanctioned by the US sanctioned by the EU. They're on the run. There is every likelihood they are in the East of the country. And hopefully that the man who committed these atrocities will be brought to justice?
Special Envoy: I fully agree, and that is so that is part of the way of not only healing but rebuilding the country, regain the country, regaining leave if you wish the culture of the country as well. One thing that I heard again, and I'm a newcomer to Libya, but I heard that Libyans, yes, they can oppose each other very strongly, but they're also able to find solutions if they are given the chance and if [inaudible] internal external forces are not playing games with them on their expense, and I believe that this feeling is now coming very strongly, that's why, once again, the election is the end of the transition process. Finally, after 10 years of strife and moving here and there, forward, backward, etc., now a regular process of moving forward and heal the country, uniting the country, and eventually assuming its sovereignty.
BBC Reporter: The situation in Tripoli and the security situation. To be transformed. It is a far less dangerous city than it was. What about the East of the country? What about Benghazi? We’ve seen the killing of a, uh, a man wanted by the International Criminal Court for terrible crimes. We've seen the kidnapping of the daughter of a civil rights activist, and we've seen a number of the bodies found have been tortured, and [inaudible] because if this is a unity government, it needs to fix Benghazi just as it is fixed Tripoli, no?
Special Envoy: I know one thing that Prime Minister AlDabaiba is very clearly focused on that situation as well. You might recall that after this discovery of bodies he Immediately ordered an investigation into the matter, together with the authorities of the country [inaudible] we are looking at the situation and what happened with different activists including the case that you referred to. And we are also and myself I plan to go to Benghazi soon and to check with some leaders in that area, what is happening, and frankly to not only to understand better, but maybe to work and advice on how to move forward, but yes, part of the issues is to stop impunity. Don't give space to different groups that are moving here and there without any control, because that is demoralizing. It creates space for others to use it to step in. Others is everything you know. It's in this country you still have International terrorism.
And it means that this country, at this point in time, is on the way to becoming perhaps a stabilizing factor, but there is a long way to go, not only internally, but again in the region.
So, it's a tall order for the unity government, because they have only - I don't know - less than one year to deliver. But they can build the fundamentals and that's the determination of the interim executive authority, that something where they have very strong support from the international community, and I hope that this process will continue also in the future and at least the SC and again the broader international community that is at this point in time aligned. This is a massive difference.
It is ready to support Libya.
BBC Reporter: Final, final question: Coronavirus, the pandemic...
Special Envoy: Terrible
BBC Reporter: particularly bad here. It seems like no one has been vaccinated in the country.
Special Envoy: It's very well because of course, you know there are pledges and promises of the vaccine. But they are not coming in the quantities that are needed, so that's one thing. Secondly, I'm not sure to what extent if the system was able and willing to address this is one of the topical priorities for the people, but I fully agree with you.
I had several meetings in the past days with different representatives of different groups in the society. It was present everywhere and very often they even started with COVID, and then eventually, the issue of political developments and other topics that are very important.
This is very much and rightly and must be a priority for the government of Prime Minister Dabaiba and for support that should be provided by the broader international partners [inaudible].
BBC Reporter: Thank you very much
Special Envoy: Thank you