HoR considering making British ambassador Caroline Hurndall persona non grata after statements on post-election date status of current Aldabaiba government

By Sami Zaptia.

The HoR is threatening to make Britain’s Ambassador to Libya, Caroline Hurndall, persona non grata for her post-election date comments (Photo: FCO).

London, 28 December 2021:

Libya’s parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), is considering making the current British Ambassador to Libya, Caroline Hurndall, ‘‘persona non grata’’ after what the HoR viewed as unacceptable statements.

The statement that has purportedly irked the HoR was released by the British Embassy in Tripoli on 24 December as part of a tweet saying ‘‘As per the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) Roadmap and the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), the UK continues to recognise the Government of National Unity as the authority tasked with leading Libya to elections and does not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions.’’

The section of the statement that reads ‘‘the UK continues to recognise the Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba Government of National Unity as the authority tasked with leading Libya to elections and does not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions’’ is what irked many Libyans and was interpreted as specific support for Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba and his government and deemed as interference in Libya’s internal politics.

It was found particularly objectionable by various power stakeholders who have ambitions to assume the role of a (another) caretaker prime minister until elections actually take place.

On 25 December the HoR Foreign Affairs Committee reacted by issuing a statement. It said it deplored the unacceptable interference by Britain in Libya’s internal affairs. It stated that the choice of a new government or the continuation of the current one is a choice for the HoR and that all should respect the democratic rule.

As a result of the social and traditional media negative reaction to the UK statement, the UK was forced to issue a clarifying statement on 26 December. In it, it said:

‘‘The UK is firm in its commitment to the ongoing political process in Libya and the holding of prompt parliamentary and presidential elections. We share the disappointment of the Libyan people that it was not possible to hold these elections on 24 of December, and call on all the relevant authorities to work on delivering these elections with minimal further delay, in order that the Libyan people can make their choice in fair and inclusive elections.

As stated with our P3 + 2 partners, the UK is clear that the transfer of power from the current interim executive authority to the new executive authority shall take place following the announcement of the results of such early and prompt parliamentary and presidential elections. And, importantly, to avoid conflicts of interests and to promote a level playing field, candidates holding roles in public institutions should continue vacating them until the announcement of the electoral results.

We support the Libyan House of Representatives in its calls for the cooperation of all parties in creating the right conditions for elections as soon as possible. The UK does not support any individual, but continues to commend the work of HNEC and other relevant institutions to deliver elections that reinforce the independence, sovereignty and unity of Libya.’’

Hence, as far as the UK is concerned ‘‘it is clear that the transfer of power from the current interim executive authority to the new executive authority shall take place following the announcement of the results of such early and prompt parliamentary and presidential elections.’’

Equally, the statement said ‘‘candidates holding roles in public institutions (which include prime minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba and HoR head Ageela Saleh) should continue vacating them until the announcement of the electoral results.’’

It is clear the British hold the view that neither PM Aldabaiba nor HoR head Saleh should resume their roles as long as they remain candidates in the planned elections.

Why is Britain being singled out?

It is also unclear why the HoR is singling out the British Ambassador. One possibility is that Libyan social media and several HoR members do not like the ‘‘cosy’’ relationship between Britain and National Oil Corporation (NOC) head Mustafa Sanalla and the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) head Ali Mahmoud.

They may also object to the fact that former British Ambassador to Libya, Peter Millett, is what they consider a highly paid advisor to the LIA. They see these as unhealthy relationships.

However, the statement made by the British government on the status of the current government post 24 December is similar to the statement made in the joint statement released by France, Italy, the UK, and the U.S. on 24 December.

That statement read:

‘‘In line with the Paris declaration, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the United States recall their understanding that the transfer of power from the current interim executive authority to the new executive authority shall take place following the announcement of the results of such early and prompt parliamentary and presidential elections. To avoid conflicts of interests and to promote a level playing field, candidates holding roles in public institutions should also continue vacating them until the announcement of the electoral results.’’

The key sentence here may be more diplomatic than that released by the British embassy but ultimately amounts to the same conclusion:

‘‘the transfer of power from the current interim executive authority (the Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba Government of National Unity) to the new executive authority (the newly elected government) shall take place following the announcement of the results of such early and prompt parliamentary and presidential elections.’’

The British statement was more in your face and sent a message to the presidential candidates that met Khalifa Hafter that it would not support their quest for power.

It read: ‘‘the UK continues to recognise the Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba Government of National Unity as the authority tasked with leading Libya to elections and does not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions’’

It used the term ‘‘recognition’’ and non- ‘‘endorsement’’ and ‘‘parallel governments’’ which called out and embarrassed those seeking to use the failure to hold elections on 24 December as an excuse to overthrow the Aldabaiba government.

Still, it is unclear if the HoR will indeed go ahead and make Ambassador Hurndall persona non grata in its session today or whether it was simply posturing and delivering a political slap on the wrist to the British Ambassador.

 

UK clarifies its position on Libyan elections and Libya’s caretaker government in the meanwhile | (libyaherald.com)

Statement by the Governments of the United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom | (libyaherald.com)

 

You must be logged in to post a comment Login