World leaders meeting in Rome have urged Libya’s warring factions to lay down their weapons and back a new national unity government under a UN peace plan due to be signed on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was among ministers and officials from 17 countries who, along with the UN, the EU and the Arab League, called for an immediate ceasefire across Libya on Sunday.
They pledged support for efforts to end the chaos that has engulfed the North African state since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, and to reduce the risk of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) expanding its presence.
“We came here today because we cannot allow the status quo to continue,” Kerry said at the close of talks attended by 15 officials from different wings of Libya’s splintered political class.
“It is dangerous for the viability of Libya, dangerous for Libyans and, because of Daesh (ISIL) migrating there, dangerous for everyone.
“We refuse to stand by and watch a vacuum filled by terrorists.”
Libya has sunk into chaos since a Western-backed rebellion toppled Muammar Gaddafi four years ago. The country now has two rival governments and two parliaments, each backed by competing armed factions.
ISIL has taken advantage of the situation to solidify its foothold by taking over the central city of Sirte. It has attacked a hotel and a prison in Tripoli, oil fields and military checkpoints, and issued a video of its fighters beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach.
World powers are now concerned that ISIL’s growing strength in the country will give it a gateway to Europe.
“That is why the international community has been pressuring Libyans to unite, to stop fighting each other and instead focus on defeating ISIL,” Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Rome, said.
“Under the deal the new Libyan government would be able to request international military assistance to help fight the armed group. The world is in agreement to prevent Libya from becoming another base for ISIL.”