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".
France on Tuesday issued a clarion call to the rest of the international community to act in Libya, amid growing fears the country is becoming a major “terrorist hub” on Europe’s doorstep.
But while the major regional players voiced concern about the chaos in Libya playing into the hands of jihadists, they appeared cool on the possibility of an international intervention in the country.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he wanted to “sound the alarm about the seriousness of the situation in Libya.”
“The south is a sort of hub for terrorist groups where they come to re-supply — including with weapons — and re-organise. 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 in an interview with Le Figaro.
“We need to act in Libya and mobilise the international community,” stressed the minister, weeks after President Francois Hollande described the chaos in Libya as his “major concern” and called for unspecified UN help in the country.
France played a major role in the 2011 NATO military intervention in Libya to depose Moamer Kadhafi and has troops stationed in nearby Mali that Le Drian said could be moved closer with the cooperation of Algeria.
Foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal stressed however that only a “political solution” could work in Libya.
And Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal warned at the weekend: “We do not accept a foreign intervention on our borders, we want a regional solution.”
“We need a consensus to put in place a government and institutions capable of governing the country,” he said.
Libya has been sliding into chaos since Kadhafi 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.
Le Drian also warned it was the region’s “trafficking zone, beginning with human trafficking.”
Thousands of desperate migrants have tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe from its coast, creating a major refugee crisis in Italy and Malta.
– ‘Nest of terrorists’ –
Rene Otayek, a researcher at Bordeaux’s Institute of Political Science, noted that “you have to remember that the chaos in Libya is a direct consequence of the NATO intervention” in 2011.
Tunisian authorities made the same point, with government spokesman Nidhal Ouerfelli saying Tuesday: “Of course we are opposed in principle to any military intervention in a country.”
“We have seen the experiences of the past and we have seen that military intervention has absolutely not led to the installation of a democratic regime, to the stabilisation of the country,” he added.
The president of regional powerhouse Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, warned against an “international intervention” in Libya despite the fact Cairo was “anxious to avoid Libya falling into the hands of terrorists.”
Further south, however, a senior officer in the Chadian army, who declined to be named, said: “The situation in Libya worries us a lot and especially the presence of jihadists.”
“The more the situation deteriorates, the more worried we become and we are staying very vigilant.”
A former rebel chief of the nomadic Tuareg people who live in the Saharan regions of northern Africa told AFP that Libya was “a country on the verge of implosion where there is no authority.”
“The south of Libya is a veritable nest of terrorists: all the forces of evil are gathered there and it’s a real threat to Niger,” said Mohamed Ouagaya, who is based in Niger.