Libya’s Western allies on Friday expressed deep concern over political polarization in the North African country, a day after the country’s supreme court declared the new parliament and government illegal.
The United States, Canada and six European countries, including Britain and France, issued a joint statement urging Libya’s rival parties to “cease all military operations and to refrain from taking any steps which increase the polarization and divisions.”
The statement also said the eight countries were “studying carefully the decision” by Libya’s Supreme Constitutional Court, “its context and consequences.”
The court, which is based in the capital, Tripoli, on Thursday ruled that general elections held in June were unconstitutional and that the country’s parliament and government, which resulted from that vote, should be dissolved.
The ruling is likely to further deepen the rift in Libya, which has been mired in months-long clashes and turmoil that have left the country with two rival parliaments and governments, killed hundreds and displaced whole populations of war-torn cities and towns.
The fighting is the worst spasm of violence since the toppling of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi by NATO-backed rebel forces. Since his ouster and killing, rebel groups-turned-militias have fought one another for influence and territory while weak successive governments - in the absence of a strong police or military - have been unable to rein them in.
“We note that the challenges facing Libya require political solutions,” said Western nations and urged parties in Libya to cooperate with the U.N. special envoy to “agree on a way forward.”
Also Friday, Libya’s new interior minister visited the war-torn eastern city of Benghazi amid deadly fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist militias for control of the city.
Interior Minister Omar al-Sanki represents the internationally recognized government that emerged from June parliament elections. That government is based in the far eastern city of Bayda, far from the violence engulfing main cities and towns. The elected parliament is seated in Tobruk, also in the country’s far east.
Meanwhile, Tripoli is in the hands of Islamist-allied militias who have revived an earlier parliament and government.
In Benghazi, al-Sanki pledged Benghazi would be fully under government control soon and that police would return to the city.