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Al-Sirraj to France 24: Libya face tough challenges before holding elections

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sirraj hailed a landmark deal struck Tuesday with rival military leader General Khalifa Haftar, but warned the divided country faces tough challenges before holding elections.

Al-Sirraj, leader of Libya’s UN-backed government based in Tripoli, and Haftar, who heads the self-styled Libyan National Army that controls much of the east of the country, agreed to a conditional ceasefire as well as to move towards holding elections following talks in Paris.

“The meeting was very positive, we share a similar vision to prioritise a political agreement,” Al-Sirraj told FRANCE 24.

“We spoke about the urgent need to create a better environment for elections, to unify institutions, and we of course agreed that elections are the solution.”

However, with the country currently divided between rival governments and struggling to wrest control back from armed groups and Islamist militants that filled the power vacuum left behind by the overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Al-Sirraj acknowledged that there was much work to do to pave the way for elections, not least in ensuring security.

“Fears about the security situation are fully justified,” he said. “Organising these elections will require real political, security and logistical preparations. There must be a common effort to ensure their success.”

Meanwhile, Al-Sirraj also touched on the migrant crisis in Libya and a recent deal with the European Union that will see the bloc provide financial assistance to help the African nation beef up its frontier controls, but which has been criticised by aid groups.

“Libya cannot in its current state host any more migrants,” he said. “There are people who are trapped at sea or in the desert – it’s a disaster. In order to help prevent this, we have asked our European partners to help finance our coast guard.”

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