Tensions flare as head of Libya’s unity government sails to Tripoli despite blockade

Published March 31st, 2016 - 08:01 GMT
Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister-designate, Fayez al-Sarraj, flanked by members of the presidential council, speaks during a press conference on March 30, 2016 in the capital Tripoli. (AFP/Stringer)
Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister-designate, Fayez al-Sarraj, flanked by members of the presidential council, speaks during a press conference on March 30, 2016 in the capital Tripoli. (AFP/Stringer)

Members of Libya’s UN-backed Presidential Council on Thursday arrived in Tripoli by boat, after being forced to make the journey from Tunisia by sea.

Airspace around the Libyan capital was closed for several hours on Sunday and Monday. Officials say the aim was to keep them out of the city and prevent them from setting up a unity government.

Seven officials, including council head Fayez Seraj and Libya’s new prime minister landed at the Abusita naval base after a 12-hour journey from the Tunisian port of Sfax.

Security was tight. There are checkpoints and armoured vehicles on the road leading from the base.

Members of the Nawasi brigade, which supports the council, clashed with opponents shortly after news of the arrival broke. A spokesman said one Nawasi member was killed and three wounded.
 
Al-Nabaa, an influential television channel that backs a separate, self-declared government, has been taken off the air.
 

The Context

A self-declared government, backed by armed groups, had warned the council and the unity government not to travel to the Libyan capital.

The unity government – or government of national accord (GNA) – is the result of a UN-mediated deal signed last DecemberWestern powers have recognised it as Libya’s sole legitimate government.

The government aims to end Libya’s political impasse, resolve its armed conflict and tackle the growing threat from Daesh militants.

However, there is opposition in the east and west of the country. The 18 members of the GNA have so far failed to secure a vote of approval from Libya’s eastern, internationally-recognised parliament, which is a requirement under the UN-brokered deal.


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