Wednesday, 28 May 2014
12. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the deteriorating situation in Libya after armed militants stormed the country's interim parliament with the country sliding towards an all out civil war; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23186/14]
I am extremely concerned regarding recent events in Libya where the situation remains highly precarious. The security environment has further deteriorated in recent days after renegade Army General Haftar sent his paramilitary force, the "Libyan National Army", to attack the parliament building on 18 May. According to reports received, militia members used anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and light arms in some of the heaviest clashes in months in the capital, killing two people and wounding 60.
General Haftar, who quit as head of Colonel Gaddafi’s army and took charge of rebel forces during the 2011 uprising, has vowed to rid Libya of Islamist politicians whom he claims have allowed extremist militias to take control of the country. He has called publicly on the government to hand over power to the country’s highest judicial council "to form a civilian presidential high council tasked with forming an emergency cabinet and organising legislative elections". General Haftar’s forces also launched an extensive air and ground operation against Islamist militias in the coastal city of Benghazi on 16 and 17 May, reportedly killing 70 people.
The acting Libyan Prime Minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni, has declared that General Haftar is attempting to lead a coup against the government. I strongly condemn the actions of all militias in Libya, including General Haftar’s forces, which are seeking to undermine the legitimate political process and the aspirations of the vast majority of the Libyan people for a peaceful democratic transition.
I join Libya’s interim government in calling on all sides to return urgently to dialogue and reconciliation as a means of restoring stability.
The difficulty is that there is no government operating in Libya. There is a collection of armed groups and this is another strong man emerging. We have seen this happen on many occasions. Earlier we discussed the coup in Thailand. Are there Irish citizens living in Libya and is there concern about them? A number of Libyan people were living in Ireland, some of whom returned to Libya after the fall of the Gadaffi regime. Does the Minister of State have any information on this? What should Ireland do about the situation? Do we step back and let them at it? What happens next?
I am not in a position to state the exact number of Irish citizens in Libya, but I assure the Deputy that through our embassy in Rome which is accredited to Libya we are providing advice for anybody who is considering travelling to Libya and that we will monitor and offer support to Irish citizens who are in the country or the region.
With regard to the response to the grave difficulty in Libya, much of it is being co-ordinated through the European Union. On the first level, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, who co-ordinates and leads much of the European Union's foreign policy in these areas has appointed a new special envoy to Libya, Bernardino León, whose role will be to co-ordinate the work of the European Union in that area and offer any support possible, with a particular focus on what can be done in the area of public administration and governance.
The second area of work by the European Union involves what is described as the European Union Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission in Libya which was established in May 2013. Its role is to support and develop the capacity and ability of the Libyan authorities to monitor their borders and make them secure and in the long term to develop broader policy and concepts in that regard. The mission has a temporary location in Malta and will put in place a secure compound and facility within Libya to deal with work in that area.