On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., led a letter to U.S. Sec. of State Antony Blinken laying out how the United States can continue to support a stable political transition in Libya amid the ongoing interagency review of U.S. policy towards Libya.
Deutch leads the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee. A half dozen other members of Congress signed the letter including U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY, who leads the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-NJ.
In February, Deutch, Lieu, and Malinowski introduced the bipartisan Libya Stabilization Act, legislation that authorizes U.S. support for good governance, anti-corruption, free and fair elections, and economic recovery in Libya, and sanctions individuals who commit human rights violations or support foreign military intervention in Libya.
The letter is below.
Dear Secretary Blinken:
As members of Congress who have consistently engaged on U.S. policy towards Libya, including through the Libya Stabilization Act, we write to encourage the Administration to actively support both the United Nations (UN)-led Libyan peace process and efforts to enhance stability, sovereignty, and good governance in Libya.
A new interim Libyan Government of National Unity was inaugurated on March 15 after gaining parliamentary support. For the first time since 2014, there is hope that Libya’s divided institutions can be unified and bring lasting peace and stability to the country. The new interim government is the latest positive development in Libya and followed the October 23, 2020 ceasefire, establishment of a Joint Military Commission, restoration of oil production, and achievements of the UN-led Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. We commend the Libyan people and their representatives for taking these important steps. These achievements are also in no small part thanks to the tireless efforts of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the engagement of State Department officials, including the U.S embassy in Libya.
However, many challenges remain, from disarming numerous militias to improving the quality of public services to ensuring the departure of an estimated 20,000 foreign mercenaries and fighters who remain on Libyan soil in violation of the October 23 ceasefire agreement and the UN arms embargo. Therefore, in light of the ongoing interagency review of U.S. policy towards Libya, we encourage the administration to:
- Deploy all diplomatic and economic tools to help the newly-formed Government of National Unity succeeds in its central tasks: implementing the October 23 ceasefire, initiating a process of national reconciliation, addressing the needs of the Libyan people, unifying Libya’s institutions, and preparing Libya for free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December 2021;
- Apply all necessary leverage to convince or compel foreign mercenaries on Libyan soil to depart Libya in accordance with the provisions of the ceasefire agreement;
- Employ tough bilateral and multilateral diplomacy to ensure that outside powers—including U.S. allies and partners—respect the UN arms embargo;
- Support constant, unimpeded, and reliable humanitarian access to those in need; advocate for the immediate release and safe evacuations of detained refugees and migrants trapped in Libya; and encourage implementation of UNSMIL’s plan for the organized and gradual closure of migrant detention centers in Libya;
- Accelerate assessments of the viability of safely returning the U.S. embassy to Libya, as soon as security conditions allow; and
- Utilize the range of tools at our disposal to fight corruption and improve governance, public services, and economic recovery in Libya, which will increase the chances for a sustainable peace.
We welcome the administration’s pledge to increase U.S. diplomatic engagement in Libya. Ten years ago, Libyans rose up to demand dignity and justice and the U.S. must support the Libyan people as they continue on the path towards national unity, stability, and peace.
We thank you for your inspiring leadership of the State Department and all the work you have done so far in bringing diplomacy back to the center of U.S. foreign policy. We look forward to working with you on Libya and other pressing issues.