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To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the continuing deterioration of the political situation in Libya; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 26th June, 2013

REPLY

The general political and security situation in Libya remains fragile.  The persistence of armed militias in many parts of southern and eastern Libya, and the widespread availability of arms in general, continue to pose serious threats to the stability of the state.  Most recently, heavy fighting broke out in Benghazi on June 15th after an unidentified militia attacked government troops, killing five soldiers and a civilian.  A week previously, in one of the most serious incidents since the end of the civil war in 2011, an estimated 35 people died in a separate confrontation near a militia barracks which resulted in the militia in question being expelled.

Such episodes have exposed the problems faced by Prime Minister Zidan and his Government in exerting control over the entire country, particularly in rural and tribal areas where the state has traditionally had little or no presence.  Border security is also critically important given the limited capacity of the Government to control its territory and the possible impact of militants returning from Mali.

On the political front, there are serious concerns, both inside and outside Libya, about the likely implications of the adoption of a recent political exclusion law by the General National Congress which is aimed at banning anyone linked to the Gaddafi regime from participating in government.  It has already resulted in the resignation of the President of the GNC, Mohammed Magarief, and could yet lead to other members of the current Government being forced to resign.  It is a development which does not bode well for overall reconciliation within the country and which has been criticised by the UN for further weakening Libya’s already fragile state institutions.  The strong support for this law expressed by various militias, which led them to blockade various Government ministries prior to its adoption, only underlines the urgent need for progress on security sector reform within Libya.

Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the enormous progress which has been made since the fall of the Gadaffi regime less than two years ago.  The holding of Libya’s first democratic elections in July 2012 was a momentous achievement and the new Government has made significant progress in many areas, including the drafting of a new constitution.

Ireland and other partners are continuing to offer all possible support and assistance to the Libyan Government and people as the process of transition continues.  The EU will be shortly deploying a new civilian CSDP mission to assist the Libyan authorities in the area of border management.  The EU has also stated its willingness to negotiate an Association Agreement with Libya to develop a more formal framework for assistance and cooperation.

On a bilateral basis, Ireland is advancing practical cooperation with the new administration in Libya in a number of key strategic areas of mutual interest, including trade, education and health. My Department also continues to work to facilitate political-level contacts with the new Libyan Government.

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