On Monday, 27 EU Foreign Ministers agreed to set up a new Mediterranean naval mission to be launched by the end of March, as Europe is set to help enforce the infringed UN arms embargo on Libya, and enhance efforts to stop the long-lasting civil war.
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Libyan interim government in Tobruk, told Sputnik that the mission could be an essential contribution to end the illegal supply of arms and mercenaries to the conflict in Libya, but noted that the Libyan people "never expected foreign help".
Sputnik: UN Security Council has adopted a resolution on a ceasefire in Libya. To what extent is it respected and then why does Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar claim the liberation of Tripoli?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: The problem with the ceasefire regime is that we have no one to have a dialogue with about a ceasefire. There are different parties to the conflict around us with their interests. Some of them are foreign mercenaries. Turks brought some of them from Idlib, some of them came on their own; and, unfortunately, these are radicals from Syria. They do not intend to cease fire: after all, they have come to earn money on the war.
They are paid in dollars, and they don't care about the fate of Libya and its people at all.
The problem is not politics but security issues. So the ceasefire will depend on the elimination of terrorists and armed groups in the country.
Sputnik: At the Munich Security Conference, the need to impose sanctions in case of non-compliance with the Berlin agreements were discussed. Do you think that sanctions can help solve the Libyan crisis, or will they only exacerbate the situation?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Let's see if anybody applies sanctions to the Turkish government. After all, their fleet is in Tripoli now, the world knows about it. So let them start with Turkey if they really want it.
Sputnik: The arms embargo on Libya will be enforced by the end of March. How will this step affect the Libyan National Army, and will it be duly implemented?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: We hope it does. The Turks and their Qatari partners are selling weapons to mercenaries. If there will be no arms transfers, there will be a chance to free the Libyan people from the clutches of illegal armed groups and the crimes they commit. And we want freedom.
Sputnik: What do you expect from the 5+5 committee (formally named the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission)?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Once again, we hope to achieve a result. If the committee's forces, through dialogue, manage to force armed groups to lay down their arms and introduce a fair distribution of oil revenues - the problem will be solved. Only then will we be able to take a step towards national dialogue...
Sputnik: What do you think is the reason for Erdogan's statements about the Russian Ministry of Defense managing PMC "Wagner" in Libya? Could these statements be related to the events in Idlib?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Of course, those statements have direct relevance to the situation in Idlib, Syria.
Erdogan, a delusional leader, clearly cherishes imperial ambitions and dreams of reviving the Ottoman Empire through his actions. But that will not work. No invader will be able to cope with our country.
Sputnik: Is there anything known about the mercenaries who were sent from Turkey to Libya? Have you captured militants of Syrian or Turkish origin?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Thousands of mercenaries were brought from Turkey to Libya. And on Libyan money, and the same unrecognised government did it. They don't care by whose hands or at what cost they seize power. They commit crimes every day, both in Tripoli and elsewhere in our country. This government often kidnaps citizens of other countries, including Russians. We, therefore, demand that both the international community and the Russian Federation withdraw their recognition of this government. It is strange to deal with those who sponsor mercenaries on their own territory and even kidnap citizens of other states. Speaking of mercenaries, I would add that we have detained both Turks and Syrians. Moreover, most of them are trying to get into Europe illegally through the Mediterranean Sea. And many are successfully managing it, creating a potential threat already in Europe.
Sputnik: Could the Libyan National Army itself request the assistance of foreign forces to deal with armed groups and mercenaries that are fighting on the side of the Government of National Accord?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: We will ask only the Libyan people for help. Daesh* terrorists have been sitting in Benghazi for about 40 months. The army was in no hurry to free it. As a result, the city was liberated at the cost of hundreds of lives of our young men from the Libyan National Army. We also liberated Derna and southern Libya. We do not count on foreign help.
Sputnik: Can you comment on the views of Algeria and Tunisia on the Libyan issue?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Algeria and Tunisia, like the other countries bordering Libya, have an interest in resolving the conflict as soon as possible. Indeed, if they fail to do so, they will also be vulnerable to instability. Peace in Libya will, therefore, ensure stability in the territory of those countries. Moreover, those states are aware of the risk of arms proliferation in Libya and insist on compliance with the embargo.
Sputnik: And what about the neighbours? What does Cairo offer Libya, in its turn?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Egypt is making political efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis. The Egyptian government is following the events in Libya very closely and is keeping its hand on its pulse. Our relationship with Egypt is one of mutual respect and common interests, based on equality.
Sputnik: How do you assess Russia's role in resolving the Libyan crisis?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Russia is a significant regional player, a permanent member of the UNSC. Undoubtedly, Russia plays a positive role in resolving the crisis. Moreover, Russia has no colonial past in the Arab countries, and we believe that the historical relationship between the two countries allows Russia to play a key role in settlement of the crisis, and we welcome this. But when we talk about the role of the Russian Federation, we are not talking about military intervention or arms supplies. The Russian Federation is first and foremost a key mediator on political and diplomatic fronts. When Libya again is governed by law, with a stable economy and politics, we will not forget the assistance of all countries that contributed to the resolution of the conflict. First of all, Russia. We expect to give priority to such countries when making major strategic deals and creating projects.
Sputnik: Some parliamentarians mentioned that the representatives of the UN mission in Libya communicate with them quite remotely, accusing them of attempts to split the government. How do you assess the work of the mission?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: The mission, unfortunately, tries to manage the crisis rather than solve it. The most striking example of the strange behaviour of the UN mission is Hassan Salameh's monthly briefing. While reporting on cases of human rights violations, for some reason he does not talk about the kidnappings of Russian citizens, about the abductions of the Minister of Finance in the government of Tripoli or the Deputy Defence Minister, he does not talk about the hundreds of abductees in Tripoli. So why doesn't he call things by their names?
But we still hope that the mission will work in accordance with UN mandates, contributing to the resolution of the crisis and the formation of a national dialogue.
We're not lying to anyone; we're not making anything up. We are really fighting against armed groups, not the army. We can reach a temporary settlement through a ceasefire. But a lasting and sustainable solution that guarantees stability in Libya can be achieved only after these armed groups are completely neutralised. So they need to surrender their weapons and accept a fair distribution of oil revenues. Then there will be a real dialogue and a real settlement.
Sputnik: Speaking on the crisis of ambassadors abroad, are there any of them who are in contact with the interim government?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: So far, more than ten embassies from Asia, Africa and the Arab world have been contacted. And over time, there will only be more.
Sputnik: There are now active demands for a fair redistribution of income from oil production. And where does the money from oil production, as well as the sale of other minerals, go in general?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: Unfortunately, these profits are now spent on mercenaries, killing our citizens, buying weapons. Therefore, the demands made are logical, fair and necessary. Libyans have every right to exercise control over their national wealth, and they will profit from it. And the Government of National Accord is now either putting that profit in its pocket or spending it on mercenaries and terrorists.
Sputnik: As far as I remember, there was a project to transfer some Libyan oil companies to the east of the country. What are the advantages of that plan, and what prevents it from being implemented?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: This project is very important to us, and we hope to implement it as soon as possible. We represent all Libyans. Therefore, the presence of oil companies in the east of the country is a guarantee of the fair distribution of oil revenues among the entire Libyan population - including Tripoli.
Sputnik: The Government of National Accord is occasionally accused of concluding contracts worth billions of dollars with certain third, unknown parties. Is that true? Have instances of paying salaries from the state budget to non-existent individuals or entities known? Which of these contracts are known of?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: These are not accusations but real facts. For example, this government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars somewhere over 4-5 years. At the same time, there was no illumination on the roads, not a single school, hospital, or even a health centre was opened. And they constantly refer to the lack of funds - almost every day they take out loans. We, in turn, are restoring all necessary infrastructure in the country, as well as first aid services, utilities and compulsory education. It is our duty to our citizens, and we just cannot do it any other way. We are trying to provide access to infrastructure even in those municipalities that have little contact with our government. Because [we are] a responsible government that is responsible for its citizens, not a junta that resides in Tripoli.
Sputnik: How do you see Libya's future?
Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij: The future of Libya lies with the Libyans. We will build a new Libya without political prisons, a state ruled by law, a state for the people. The Libya of the future will be based on public and individual freedoms and will be open to all peaceful political movements. Whoever is at the helm of Libya will be the choice of the Libyan people. And the future economic and political courses will be chosen exclusively by the Libyans. Our country will be a reliable partner in the international arena. In both foreign and domestic politics, the government will act exclusively in the interests of the Libyan people and no one else's. This is how I see Libya's future.
* Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Islamic State) a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries