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Libyans advance political process amid fears of renewed violence |

CAIRO – International pressure to find a settlement to Libya’s conflict is building up in an effort to avoid another bout of violence, especially after Libyan meetings in Hurghada and an agreement on a mechanism to choose a new temporary government to oversee the run-up to elections late this year.

Libyans working under a UN peace process on Tuesday advanced the process following weeks of negotiation that came after a political dialogue in Tunis in November among 75 Libyans, selected by the UN Libya mission, charted a roadmap towards elections but failed to agree on how to form an interim government.

Libya has known little peace since longtime ruler Muammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011, in an uprising backed by NATO, and has been split since 2014 between warring factions that have set up rival administrations in the west and east.

The mechanism to choose a transitional government was proposed on Saturday by a smaller committee, drawn from the political dialogue members, that met in Geneva last week. It was voted on by the full body on Monday and Tuesday.

It means the group will soon turn to the nomination and choice of a unified government to prepare for the December 24 presidential and parliamentary elections – a process that is no less fraught with potential for bitter disputes.

Pressure builds up

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya by Saturday as called for in the October 23 ceasefire agreement signed by the warring sides after years of fighting split the oil-rich North African nation in two.

Guterres also urged the UN-recognised government that holds sway in the capital, Tripoli, in western Libya and the forces of military commander Khalifa Haftar who run most of the east and the south “to maintain their resolve in reaching a lasting political solution to the conflict, resolving economic issues and alleviating the humanitarian situation.”

In a report to the UN Security Council obtained Tuesday, Guterres welcomed the roadmap adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.

People walk by in Martyr’s square in Libya’s capital Tripoli, on January 19, 2021. (AFP)
People walk by in Martyr’s square in Libya’s capital Tripoli, on January 19, 2021. (AFP)

The UN chief encouraged countries backing both sides and the broader international community to support implementation of the ceasefire “without delay,” including “ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo” against Libya.

He also urged the Security Council to give the UN political mission, known as UNSMIL, “a clear but flexible mandate” to support a Libyan-led mechanism to monitor implementation of the ceasefire. Diplomats said a council resolution outlining the UN role will likely be circulated in late January or early February.

In early January, Guterres recommended that international monitors be deployed to Libya under a UN umbrella to observe the October ceasefire agreement from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals.

He said an advance team should be sent to Tripoli as a first step to “provide the foundations for a scalable United Nations cease-fire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte.”

The secretary-general expressed concern at the continuing threat of terrorism and violent extremism in Libya, saying that reunifying the country’s security institutions would contribute “to mitigating the risk” of ISIS and other terrorist and extremist groups reconstituting.

“Though operationally weakened as a result of a series of counter-terrorism operations, the Islamic State … and a support network of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remain a threat in Libya,” he said.

Guterres said the role of UN member nations and regional organisations, including the African Union, European Union and Arab League, “is critical.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told the Security Council on Monday that recent events “could bring us closer to ending the division in this important Arab country.”

He urged that foreign fighters and mercenaries be removed by Saturday’s deadline, and urged a solution to the threat posed by armed groups and militias. He warned that unless this happens “the country will not enjoy any stability nor will any agreement on the transitional phase and the preparation for the upcoming elections survive.”

Aboul Gheit pledged Arab League support to the UN in monitoring the ceasefire agreement and in preparing for and observing December’s elections.

A call for consensus

During Tuesday’s Hurghada meeting, head of Egypt’s National Committee concerned with Libyan affairs stressed to the Libyan parties the importance of putting aside differences and making use of the current “historic “opportunity to reach a consensus on a unified Libyan constitutional base that would allow holding the Libyan national elections and ending the Libyan crisis.

The remarks were made during the second meeting of the Libyan Constitutional Committee, which comprises delegations from the North African country’s House of Representatives and High Council of State.

Addressing the meeting via video conference, acting UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams reiterated the need to agree on the constitutional arrangements given its connection with the outcomes of other tracks to settle the crisis.

“If you fail to reach an agreement, this will have very negative repercussions on other tracks, including security and the economic situation,” she said.

The talks are part of a wider peace process that involves a military ceasefire signed in October in Geneva to end years of unrest, in addition to other economic tracks.

“You have a heavy responsibility to reach a consensus on the constitutional arrangements,” Williams stressed, expressing hope that the talk would produce positive results to help achieve stability and support the results of the LPDF.

The UN envoy also praised Egyptian efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis and the Egyptian leadership’s efforts to help stabilise Libya.

The Red Sea resort city of Hurghada hosted the second meeting of the Libyan Constitutional Committee on Tuesday, almost three months after hosting its first meeting, in which participants stated the need to end the transitional phase and move towards a permanent phase to meet the Libyan people’s aspirations.

Egypt has been pushing for a political settlement in Libya, as well as calling for a ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of militias, a halt to foreign intervention and a fair distribution of the country’s wealth.

Last year, Egypt proposed a peace initiative dubbed the Cairo Declaration, which was based on the conclusion of the Berlin conference. It proposed a ceasefire as well as the election of a leadership council.

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