France: No military action against IS in Libya

France: No military action against IS in Libya
3 min read
02 February, 2016
France's chief diplomat tells anti ISIS conference that Paris will not take military action in Libya to counter the growing militant threat in the chaotic North African state.
Laurent Fabius said France will not take military action in Libya [Getty]
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius denied on Tuesday reports that Paris will push for military action against Islamic State in Libya.

The Global Coalition to Counter ISIL held a conference in Rome to reassess measures to prevent Islamic State from expanding.

Fabius asserted that there were no signs of a second military intervention in the North African state.

"There is absolutely no question of military intervention in Libya," Fabius said, "There is pressure [for that] but that is not the position of the [French] government."

What's been going on in Libya?

The General National Congress was the Islamist-led elected body ruling Libya for two years following Gaddafi's ousting and death. After its 18-month deadline to form a new constitution passed in January 2014, the body resolved to extend its mandate.

General Khalifa Haftar, a senior figure in the forces that toppled Gaddafi, called on the GNC to disband. In May, Haftar led troops against Islamist militias in Benghazi and the GNC in Tripoli in an offensive named Operation Dignity.

Amid the chaos, an election was held to form the House of Representatives, which took power from the GNC in August. With rival militias ruling Libya's streets, the election turnout was just 18 percent. Islamist militias then launched Operation Libya Dawn to fight Haftar's troops.

With the lack of security in the capital, the House of Representatives hired a Greek car ferry harboured in the eastern city of Tobruk as a temporary legislature.

In late August, a group of GNC members reconvened in Tripoli and claimed legislative authority over the country, effectively replacing the House of Representatives as Libya's parliament. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives remains the internationally recognised government, though its actual authority on the ground in Libya is limited.

Libya's Supreme Court, based in Islamist-held Tripoli, ruled in November that the formation of the House of Representatives was unconstitutional, legally dissolving the Tobruk-based legislature and nullifying its decisions.

The Tobruk-based parliament refused to accept the court's ruling, saying it was made "at gunpoint".

Libya remains torn between the rival parliaments and the heavily armed militias that support each. Allegiances between the militias change frequently, which only adds to the instability, violence and danger faced by ordinary Libyan citizens.

But US Secretary of State warned that the militant group will have "access to billions of dollars in oil revenue" if it gains a stronghold in Libya.

"We're here to recommit, we're here to re-evaluate, we're here to make judgements about things we have started that we could do better," John Kerry said from Rome.

Kerry urged Europe and Arab partners to increase security training and help Libya's military "not just to clear territory, but to create a safe environment for the government to stand up and operate."

Meanwhile Italy, whose southernmost territory is less than 300 miles [480 kilometres] from Libya, has indicated it would participate in a UN authorised peacekeeping or stabilisation mission.

Italy has moved aircraft to a base in Sicily, but insists that any action will need a stable Libyan government and other international assistance.

"We cannot imagine spring passing with the situation in Libya still stalled," Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said last week.

Libya has been in a political turmoil rocked by violence since the ousting of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 revolution.

It now has two governments and parliaments, with the recognised authorities based in the eastern city of Tobruk and a militia-backed authority in Tripoli.

IS militant group first appeared in the North African state in 2014 and has since claimed responsibility for beheadings and suicide bombings.

Last June, IS fighters captured Sirte, 280 miles [450 kilometres] east of Tripoli.

The group already controlled the city's airport and a nearby power plant.

In recent weeks, IS extremists launched attacks from Sirte against facilities in the "oil crescent" along the coast.

The IS group is reported to have at least 3,000 fighters in Libya.