Libya coast road reopens in step forward for peace talks

Military traffic not allowed to use the road between the country's western border and Sirte

Libya's warring sides said on Friday that they had reopened the main coast road across the front line, a key element of a ceasefire agreed last year.

The UN-backed 5+5 committee drawn from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army in the east and forces that support the government in Tripoli, said the road was open from 11am local time.

It was not open to military traffic, the committee said, and the agreement included some preparatory steps for the withdrawal of foreign fighters, another part of last year's ceasefire that has still to be implemented.

The slow progress in opening the road reflected other stumbles in the UN-backed effort to resolve Libya's long conflict with a ceasefire, a unity government, proposed elections and moves to unify economic institutions.

The Government of National Unity, selected by means of a UN-aided process early this year and then ratified by the divided parliament in the east, took office in March.

However, since that point there has been little agreement on key steps forward, including on a constitutional basis for the elections scheduled in December and for the GNU's budget.

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah had declared the road open on June 21, just before a second international conference to support the country in Berlin. But Field Marshal Haftar's forces said there was no truth to the statement, even if Mr Dbeibah showed photographs of a huge pile of sand being cleared from the road.

Forces in western Libya had refused to open the road until another ceasefire condition – the removal of foreign mercenaries entrenched around front lines – was carried out.

Critics of parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, an ally of Field Marshal Haftar during his 2019-2020 assault on Tripoli, regard the delays as evidence that forces in the east are trying to sabotage the process.

Mr Saleh and his allies in eastern Libya meanwhile, accused the GNU of becoming "a Tripoli government" and blamed it for the failure to unify institutions.

Last week Mr Saleh said that a failure to hold elections meant another rival administration could be set up in the east.

Updated: July 30th 2021, 11:50 AM