October 22, 2016

Libya’s UN-backed unity government arrives in Tripoli

Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Presidential Council, arrived in Tripoli by sea [File pic:Abdeljalil Bounhar/The Associated Press]

Members of Libya’s UN-backed unity government reportedly arrived in the capital Tripoli on Wednesday, defying warnings by rival factions that it should not move there.

The Presidential Council was formed under a UN-mediated peace deal late last year in an effort to end the political chaos and conflict that has beset the country since the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi five years ago.

It is supposed to replace the two rival administrations – one based in Tripoli, the other in the eastern city of Tobruk – that have been battling each other for more than a year.

Tripoli’s self-declared government and armed groups that back it had in recent days warned the unity government not to travel to Tripoli.

But seven members of the council, including its head and Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj, arrived in the Libyan capital by sea and set up a temporary seat of power at a naval base. The officials were prevented from flying into Tripoli by the rival government.

A post on the unity government’s website confirmed the arrival, the Associated Press reported.

Ali Abu Zakouk, the foreign minister of the rival government, said Sarraj’s presence is “unacceptable”.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said the situation was “calm” in the capital following the news of the unity government’s arrival. He added the big question now was whether the members of the council would be able to govern.

“There are a lot of challenges facing this government here in Tripoli,” Abdelwahed said. “Three major political entities in Libya are opposing the presence of this government.”

Ahead of its arrival, the council said it had negotiated a security plan with police and military forces in Tripoli, and with some armed groups.

It has called for an immediate transfer of power, though both the Tripoli and eastern-based governments oppose this.

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