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Libya's unity government arrives in Tripoli despite blockade

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Libya's unity government arrives in Tripoli despite blockade
  • Libyan council defies moves to keep them out of Tripoli
  • Western powers offer support
  • Libyan factions urged to cooperate

What is happening?

Members of Libya’s UN-backed Presidential Council have arrived in Tripoli by boat, after being forced to make the journey from Tunisia by sea.

Airspace around the Libyan capital was closed for several hours on Sunday and Monday.

Officials say the aim was to keep them out of the city and prevent them from setting up a unity government.

Seven officials, including council head Fayez Seraj and Libya’s new prime minister landed at the Abusita naval base after a 12-hour journey from the Tunisian port of Sfax.

Security was tight. There are checkpoints and armoured vehicles on the road leading from the base.

Violent clashes

The atmosphere in the city is tense.

Members of the Nawasi brigade, which supports the council, clashed with opponents shortly after news of the arrival broke.

A spokesman said one Nawasi member was killed and three wounded.

Al-Nabaa, an influential television channel that backs a separate, self-declared government, has been taken off the air.

The context

A self-declared government, backed by armed groups, had warned the council and the unity government not to travel to the Libyan capital.

The unity government – or government of national accord (GNA) – is the result of a UN-mediated deal signed last December.

Western powers have recognised it as Libya’s sole legitimate government.

The government aims to end Libya’s political impasse, resolve its armed conflict and tackle the growing threat from ISIL militants.

However, there is opposition in the east and west of the country.

The 18 members of the GNA have so far failed to secure a vote of approval from Libya’s eastern, internationally-recognised parliament.

This is a requirement under the UN-mediated deal.

What they are saying

“We will work for a ceasefire across Libya, for national reconcilation and the return of displaced people, and we will seek to confront Islamic State.” – Council head Fayez Seraj admits there are challenges ahead.

“Their arrival is premature. They have entered by force, under foreign protection, and Libyans will not accept anything imposed on them by force.”Fathi al-Mrimi, spokesperson for Libya’s eastern parliament.

“We stand ready to respond positively to requests for support and assistance from the GNA to help them restore stability to Libya, to rebuild the economy, fight Daesh (ISIL) and tackle the criminal gangs that threaten the security of Libyans and exploit illegal migrants.”British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.