Dabaiba and Macron meet for the first time in Paris
On 1 June, Libyan Prime Minister, Abdul Hameed Dabaiba, met with French President Emmanuel Macron in the Elysee. France’s approach to Libya has been haphazard since the new Presidential Council (PC) and Government of National Unity (GNU) emerged earlier this year. Paris was unsuccessful in getting Dabaiba to visit the Elysee after he came to power and failed to get the whole of the new PC to meet Macron on 23 March, with only the President of the PC, Mohammed Menfi, and PC Deputy Musa al-Koni participating. While Macron promised the two PC members that France would defend Libyan sovereignty and help to train and equip units to protect Libya’s southern border, it appears that Paris has recognized that the real power in the new Libyan authorities resides with Dabaiba, not the PC.
This may explain why the Elysee did not choose to invite Menfi to the African summit late last month even though it involved the consultation on the status with Chad and the economic development of North Africa –two pivotal areas highly relevant to Libya. It is important to note that Egypt played a significant role in this African summit, and France has increasingly been aligning its strategy with Egypt, suggesting an increasing tendency to coordinate their approaches on Libya through Cairo. Paris remains concerned about the Fezzan region after the Chadian rebel group FACT initiated their campaign against the Chadian government then led by Idriss Deby in late April. Dabaiba has a desire to stake his claim as the head of a true national government that can effectively penetrate to the South and provide critical services.
The Elysee has been seeking to establish direct connection to Dabaiba since his emergence as the head of the new interim government — its failure to do so up until now suggests a wariness and a lack of priority on Dabaiba’s part (partly due to his possible Turkish links and engagement with more immediate players in the Libya file respectively). This will not likely be overcome as a result of his short visit. However, Paris and Dabaiba are likely to see eye-to-eye on Libya’s South, where both would mutually benefit from its stability.