French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he would meet Libyan Prime Minister-designate Fayez Seraj on Friday to see how the U.N.-backed unity government can move swiftly into Tripoli and what support could be given to secure its return.
Western governments are growing increasingly concerned about the expansion of Islamic State in Libya, where the militant group has taken advantage of a conflict between two rival factions operating two governments in a struggle for control.
Western officials have backed the U.N.-brokered national unity government, but it is still based in Tunis and trying to establish itself in Libya, where it is facing opposition from hardliners on both sides of the country’s conflict.
“It is indispensable that this government is set up in Tripoli,” Ayrault told reporters in Tunis.
“I will see Mr Seraj tomorrow to see what his political and military needs are. For its (government) legitimacy to be recognized not only by the international community, but Libyans too, then it has to be in Tripoli. We need to help that.”
Paris has been warning for more than a year that the political void in Libya was creating favorable conditions for Islamist groups and destabilizing in particular former French colony Tunisia.
Seraj said in a television interview on Thursday it was a only “matter of days” before his government would move to Tripoli.
When asked whether the government would be secured by foreign troops or Libyans with foreign advisers Ayrault said:
“This still needs to be ironed out … I think the guarantee (of security) could be given by several countries in association with Libyan authorities and security forces.”
A French push for EU sanctions against Libyan leaders blocking unity government was approved this week to pressure hardliners to accept the United Nations effort to unite factions and militias that have competed for power since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
French aircraft have been conducting reconnaissance flights over Libya, where Paris took a leading role in the NATO air campaign that helped rebels overthrow Gaddafi. French military advisers are operating on the ground in conjunction with Britain and the United States.
Ayrault said for now air strikes and troops on the ground were not “the order of the day”.
Officials say any broader military involvement in Libya will need a request from the unity government. Ayrault also said another U.N. Security Council resolution could be possible to help solidify the position of the new Libyan government.