By John Ikani
Libya’s interim authorities have on Sunday reopened the Mediterranean coastal highway linking the country’s long-divided eastern and western cities, in the latest bid to reunite the territories after years of civil war.
Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh’s move on Sunday to reopen the road is in line with a ceasefire deal agreed last year as part of efforts to resolve Libya’s decade of chaos and violence.
The move comes days before international powers meet in Berlin to discuss the Libya crisis and progress towards unifying the country’s fragmented institutions and holding elections planned for December.
According to him, the development marks a “new step” towards re-establishing stability and unity in the North African country.
“I am so delighted to participate in the opening of this essential lifeline linking the east of our country to its west,” Dbeibeh told a crowd that gathered as bulldozers were towing away rocks and sand dunes blocking the road.
The interim premier got behind the wheel of an excavator to shift sand on the western side of the road, which is still blocked in areas controlled by Haftar’s forces.
What you should know
The reopened highway connects the war-torn North African country’s border with Tunisia to its frontier with Egypt.
The 300-kilometre stretch between the cities of Misrata and Sirte was cut off in 2019 as eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize Tripoli.
Though the reopening of the road would mark a significant step for the internationally supported peace process, big challenges remain with armed power still held by myriad groups including the forces of eastern commander Haftar.
Libya, a major North African oil producer, has had little peace or stability since the NATO-backed rising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and a split in 2014 between warring eastern and western factions.