Skip to main content

France urges action on crisis in Libya, a 'hub for terrorists'

'I am sounding the alarm about the seriousness of the situation in Libya,' says French Defence Minister as he urges decisive international action
Black smoke rises after the air attacks by forces of general Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi last week (AA)

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday urged the international community to take decisive action in Libya, which he said was becoming a "hub for terrorist groups".

In an interview with Le Figaro daily, Le Drian said: "We need to act in Libya and mobilise the international community."

"Today, I am sounding the alarm about the seriousness of the situation in Libya. The south is a sort of hub for terrorist groups where they come to resupply - including with weapons - and reorganise," added the minister.

"In the north, the political and economic centres of the country are now at risk from falling under jihadist control. And Libya is the gateway both to Europe and the Sahara," he warned.

Libya has been sliding into chaos since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed three years ago with the help of Western air power, with interim authorities confronting powerful militias which fought to oust the veteran dictator.

Thousands of desperate migrants have since tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe from its coast, creating a major refugee crisis in Italy and Malta.

The country's House of Representatives, headquartered in Tobruk despite a constitutional mandate that it meet in Benghazi, announced in August it had tendered its resignation to parliament, days after a rival Islamist administration - and the former parliament - the General National Congress, was formed in Tripoli.

Le Drian said he would discuss the situation in Libya with his European counterparts at a meeting in Milan, northern Italy, later Tuesday.

He added that French forces in Mali could "move up" to the Libyan border.

Last month, in a major foreign policy speech, French President Francois Hollande described Libya as his current "major concern" and called on the United Nations to provide special support for authorities in the north African nation.

"France asks the United Nations... to organise exceptional support for Libyan authorities to restore their state," Hollande said, without detailing what form this support should take.

"There is total confusion" in Libya, he warned.

Tripoli has witnessed heavy fighting in recent weeks between militias, mostly Islamists and nationalists, for control of the city's international airport.

Forces of renegade general Khalifa Haftar - who started his 'Operation Dignity' battle against Islamists in May - and militias, including Ansar al-Sharia, have also clashed in Benghazi in recent weeks with that city's airport, currently in Haftar's hands, as a major point of focus.

This MEE video gives an overview of various militia and government movements since 2011.