World powers seek unity government in Libya to deter Islamic State

Governments from Europe, Africa and the Middle East are calling for all sides in Libya's four-year civil war to agree to a ceasefire. Delegations from 17 countries discussed a UN plan to create a national unity government within 40 days. Reuters reporter Patrick Markey joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Algiers to discuss.

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    Governments from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East are calling for all sides in Libya's four-year civil war to agree to a cease-fire.

    Delegations from 17 countries, including the United States, met in Rome today with 15 representatives of Libyan factions. They discussed a United Nations plan to create a national unity government within 40 days.

    One concern is the current power vacuum could be filled by the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, whose presence in Libya has grown since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

    Reuters reporter Patrick Markey has been covering the Libyan conflict. He joins me now by Skype from Algiers.

    So, first of all, for an American audience, why is Libya so crucial in this, and what state of government or — exists today?

  • PATRICK MARKEY, Reuters:

    You know, at the moment, we have two rival governments, one in the east, one in Tripoli, each backed by different armed factions.

    Most of them are former rebels who used to fight against Gadhafi, but then turned against each other during the last four years. And in this chaos and in this turmoil and the security vacuum, the Islamic State has managed to establish a foothold, mostly in the city of Sirte, but also in other areas like Benghazi.

    Obviously, this is a concern for Italy particularly because it's only 300 kilometers away from the Libyan coast on the Mediterranean — across the Mediterranean, but also for North African neighbors like Tunisia, which has seen at least two major attacks on its tourism industry carried out by Tunisians who were trained in jihadi camps in Libya.

    So, there's a lot of international interest and pressure at the moment to force some kind of resolution to this crisis.


    In terms of ISIS, they have been attacking oil fields, military checkpoints. They pretty much control the city of Sirte, right?



    Well, they have slowly gathered their presence there over the last year or so. You know, there was this attack on the Corinthia Hotel in the beginning of the year, several attacks on oil fields, the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians that was carried out, and also consolidating themselves and drawing more foreign fighters to their base there.


    While these conversations happen in Rome to try to get these factions to agree, I'm imagining there's hard-liners inside Libya that want nothing to do with this agreement.

    I mean, and caught in the middle are just average Libyan citizens. I mean, what's life for them like right now in this state of flux?


    Well, as you said, you know, the — there are two governments, and it is very chaotic.

    There are problems with inflation. There are problems with some supplies in places like Tripoli. There's also a kidnapping problem. There's also the problem of conflict in places like Benghazi.

    So, for ordinary Libyans and for some of the political leaders, people are just looking for some kind of a resolution. But there are big questions about the people who don't agree with the agreement and some of the armed groups who may resist.

    So there are still a lot of questions about how this government will work, whether it will be able to form some kind of united front, whether the different armed groups on the ground will come together and hold a cease-fire to work together against Islamic State, or, as they have in the past, fall into factional fighting again, which has been the problem for the last several years.


    All right, Patrick Markey of Reuters joining us via Skype from Algiers, thanks so much.


    Thank you.

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