By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 6 January 2017:
Joint endeavours by Algeria and Tunisia over the past two days to bring about reconciliation in Libya have seen the head of the House of Representatives Ageela Saleh in talks in Tunis with the Tunisian government and the president of the State Council Abdulrahman Sewehli in Algiers.
Both were invited separately by the speakers of the two neighbours’ parliaments.
Officially, the visits are not recorded as being linked and reports in both the Tunisia and Algerian media have spoken of their own countries’ efforts to bring about peace. However, in Algeria, a statement from the Council of the Nation, the Algerian parliament’s upper chamber, spoke of “efforts made on regional and international levels to encourage and expand inter-Libyan dialogue and reach national reconciliation”.
In Tunis, a statement from the office of Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi specifically noted that there was co-ordination with Algeria to ensure what it said was an “initiative” to bring about peace in Libya.
The statement also mentioned cooperation with Egypt. However, that is seen as diplomatic rhetoric. Tunis is far more closely aligned to Algiers than to Cairo, the latter two being rivals in north Africa, especially in relation to Libya.
In Tunis, Ageela Saleh not only held separate talks with the President Caid Essebsi and the speaker of the Tunisian House of Representatives, Mohamed Ennaceur, he also had talks yesterday with the Arab League’s special envoy to Libya, Salaheddine Jamali.
There are also unconfirmed reports that he met the political mentor of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood, Rached Ghannouchi.
In Algiers, Sewehli met the Speaker of Algerian National Assembly Abdelkader Bensalah, Prime Minister Abdulmalik Sallal and Minister for Maghreb, Arab and African Affairs Abdelkader Messahel.
In both Tunis and Algiers, a common thread was the need to prevent foreign interference in Libya. Speaking to the press in Tunis after his meeting with Ennaceur, Ageela Saleh specifically called for Tunisian support to counter external interference in Libya’s affairs. In Algiers with Sewehli, Bensalah made pointed reference to the need to have Libya free of foreign interference.
Algeria has been stressing the point for some time. The Tunisian president has also taken it up. However, this is now increasingly seen as referring to the international community’s efforts to stabilise Libya, driven particularly by the Americans and Europeans.
There was though a note of defiance in Tunis from Ageela Saleh in relation to the efforts at reconciliation.
“We have come to seek support for the legitimacy emanating from the polls. We want to follow the path of dialogue and political consensus and we refuse everything that opposes the interest of the country,” he said.
However, he also said that Libya welcomed proposals from Tunisia and Algeria for a meeting of foreign ministers of all its six neighbouring states.
Following a visit to Algiers ten days ago by Presidency Council head Faiez Serraj, there were subsequently reports that, as part of Algerian-driven efforts to solve the Libyan crisis, he and the east’s Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter would meet there this week. This, however, was denied by Hafter himself in the Algerian capital for talks just over two weeks ago. Ageela Saleh was there the day before. So too at the time was the political mentor of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Salabi, who in turn is close to Ghannouchi.
There have been no suggestions that Salabi met either of the two, although it is said that the Algerians were reporting to both.