Libya's new President Mohamed Menfi urges reconciliation in visit to East

Menfi is part of interim government chosen by Libya’s warring sides

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 file photo Mohamed Younis A.B. Menfi Ambassador of Libya in Greece attends a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens. Greece's foreign minister says on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, his country is expelling the Libyan ambassador in the latest escalation of a dispute over a controversial deal between Libya's UN-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. (John Liakos/InTime News via AP, File)
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The President of Libya’s newly elected interim government, Mohamed Menfi, advocated unity and “true reconciliation” in his first trip to the country’s eastern region.

At a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva last week, delegates from Libya’s warring sides picked four leaders to guide the nation to elections in December.

“Our objective is to achieve unity and true reconciliation and to collaborate with all in order to end the suffering,” Mr Menfi tweeted shortly before his arrival.

A diplomat from the country’s east, he was picked to lead the three-member Presidency Council, which includes two other officials.

The delegates chose Abdul Hamid Dbeibah as prime minister.

Musa Al Koni and Abdullah Al Lafi were also voted on to the Presidency Council, which represents the main regions of Libya.

It was a surprising result as some of the country's most prominent politicians were ignored.

The vote by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum on February 5 went to a run-off after none of the four candidate lists won outright.

On Thursday, Mr Menfi flew to Benghazi, the stronghold of the divided country’s eastern factions, from Athens, where he had been living for the past three years.

He met dozens of tribal elders, academics and activists inside the VIP lounge at Benina airport.

Shortly after leaving, he met Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the military commander allied with the eastern government, at his headquarters in the village of Rajma, 27 kilometres east of Benghazi.

Field Marshal Haftar told Mr Menfi of his backing for the transitional authorities and his support for a “peaceful and democratic alternation of power” in Libya, his office said.

On Friday, Mr Menfi travelled to Tobruk, where he met senior figures and tribal leaders at the Dar Al Salam Hotel, the headquarters of Libya’s Parliament.

The election of the presidential council was a major step towards unifying the country and ending one of the complex conflicts plaguing the region.

Faraj Yassin, the former head of Tobruk Municipal Council, said he hoped the new government would serve Libya with devotion and “express dissatisfaction with the Turkish occupation and the presence of militias inside Tripoli”.

The new government must also ignore any treaties or agreements concluded during the previous administration’s era, because it had been an “illegal council” that was not approved by the Libyan Parliament, Mr Yassin said.

Mr Menfi said the council’s goal was to achieve national reconciliation and reunification in Libya.

The UN Security Council praised the formation of the interim government, saying that agreeing to the three-member council and prime minister was an important milestone.

The council called for ceasefire monitors to be posted quickly and urged foreign forces and mercenaries to leave the country.

Slovakian Jan Kubis took up the position of UN peace envoy to Libya last week.

It is hoped the new provisional leadership will unite the country and pave the way for elections this year.