France’s defence minister has told rival armed groups in Libya they will be committing suicide unless they stop fighting each other and take on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Jean-Yves Le Drian’s comments came as the UN’s new envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, made his first visit to the North African country since his appointment earlier in the month.
ISIL has established a foothold around the city of Sirte, the hometown of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, helped by a civil war between rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk.
“Libya preoccupies me very much,” Le Drian told Europe 1 radio on Sunday, nine days after armed men and suicide bombers loyal to ISIL killed 130 people in Paris.
“Daesh [ISIL] is in Libya because it can exploit the internal rivalries … If we reunite these forces, Daesh will cease to exist.
“It is an emergency. Tunisia is nearby, Egypt is nearby, Algeria is directly concerned; Niger, Chad … these countries need to be able to organise a forum with the support of international organisations and the United Nations,” he said.
Le Drian’s comments came a day after Kobler arrived in Tobruk for talks with officials there and to work on a UN-proposed plan to end hostilities between the Tobruk and Tripoli administrations.
Kobler’s predecessor, Bernardino Leon, left in October and drew accusations of bias from rival factions.
Shortly after he left his UN role, Leon acknowledged he had taken up a job in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, prompting anger due to a purported conflict of interest.
The UAE is a major backer of the Tobruk government and is believed to have conducted air strikes on its behalf against fighters loyal to Tripoli.