UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. political chief urged Libya’s rival factions on Monday to agree on measures governing the transition to elections during talks in Geneva later this week, expressing hope this will lead to long-awaited voting “at the earliest possible date.”
Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council that during talks in Cairo from June 12-20 the rivals reached “a broad consensus on most of the contentious articles” in the proposed 2017 constitution, which she called “commendable.”
Oil-rich Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country was then split by rival administrations, one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Hifter, and a U.N.-supported administration in the capital of Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.
The Cairo meeting was the first to see Libya’s east-based parliament, the House of Representatives, and west-based High Council of State in Tripoli engage in “a serious review” of the constitutional proposal since its adoption in 2017, DiCarlo said.
“We are encouraged that the leaders of both chambers have accepted the invitation of (U.N.) special adviser Stephanie Williams to meet in Geneva from June 28-29 to discuss and reach agreement on the measures governing the transitional period leading to elections,” she said.
DiCarlo urged the Security Council’s 15 member nations and all of Libya’s international partners “to call on the leadership of the two chambers to seize the opportunity presented by the agreement reached in Cairo” and “make elections happens.”
Libya’s plan for elections last Dec. 24 fell through after the interim administration based in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, failed to go ahead with the vote. The failure was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya.
Dbeibah refused to step down, raising questions over his mandate. In response, the country’s east-based lawmakers elected a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, a powerful former interior minister who is now operating a separate administration out of the city of Sirte.
The rival administrations are now claiming power, after tentative steps toward unity last year.
DiCarlo called for national reconciliation efforts, warning that “continued political divisions are contributing to a tense security environment in and around Tripoli.”
The issue of Libya’s chief executive has not been resolved and she warned that as armed group position themselves to support Debebah or Bashagha “the risk of escalation increases.”
After the recent Cairo meeting, Libyan media reports claimed that the main contested topic was the criteria for a presidential candidacy.
According to the reports, the Tripoli-based council insisted on banning military personal from running for the country’s top post — apparently a move directed at Hifter, a divisive military leader who announced his bid to run in December's elections, while the east-based lawmakers called for allowing military personnel to run.
U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills called it “appalling that small cabals of men, in most cases backed by weapons rather than popular legitimacy, have spent the last six months cutting deals and crafting schemes to determine who will be in power, and who will get which spoils – while some three million Libyans are still waiting to exercise their right to vote for Libya’s leaders.”
“Libya has reached a critical moment,” he said, “and its leaders must choose a trajectory – whether to build consensus and foster unity that can lead to free and fair elections and stability or to wallow in the status quo and consign the Libyan people to uncertainty, stagnation, and potential violence.”
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky blamed “the Western aggression in 2011 which caused the Libyan state to collapse” for the ongoing political crisis.
He welcomed the progress at the Cairo meeting and expressed hope that this week's Geneva talks will resolve differences between the political rivals. But he warned that “due to the persistent inter-Libyan differences and the egotism of our Western colleagues, the situation in Libya is liable to spiral out of control."