EU welcomes Libya’s UN deal as step toward stability

The rival government boycotted Saturday’s ceremony in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat, after saying the the UN envoy's draft deal was not satisfactory.

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TRIPOLI // European states on Sunday welcomed a UN peace deal initialled by some Libyan factions – despite a boycott by the opposition parliament – as a step towards restoring stability in the North African country.

Plunged into chaos since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Qadhafi, Libya has two parliaments and governments vying for power, as a slew of armed groups battle for control of its oil wealth.

The elected parliament which initialled Saturday’s agreement in Morocco along with some members of political parties and civil society and local officials, is based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The rival General National Congress (GNC) is based in Tripoli and was set up by a militia alliance, including hardliners Fajr Libya, after it seized the capital last August.

The two sides have been locked in months of negotiations brokered by UN envoy Bernardino Leon who has struggled to clinch a deal to set up a national unity government and hold fresh polls.

The GNC boycotted Saturday’s ceremony in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat, after having said Mr Leon’s draft deal was not “satisfactory”.

The European Union and Italy welcomed the agreement as a step toward restoring peace in Libya.

The UN security council has urged Libyan factions to sign on to Mr Leon’s proposals in a bid to stem rising violence and the spread of radical organisations such as ISIL.

The extremists have taken advantage of the Libya’s divisions to establish itself in the country.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said on his Twitter account that the agreement was an “important step in efforts to stabilise the region and re-establish peace in this great country”.

Mr Renzi said that a solution to the conflict in Libya was a “central” to battling “terrorism and [illegal] immigration”.

Italy has repeatedly said an accord would help stem the flow of migration to Europe from Africa via Libya – where people smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also welcomed Saturday’s deal as “an important step towards restoring peace and stability in Libya” and urged the GNC to initial the agreement as well.

The Tobruk government, recognised internationally and known as the House of Representatives, has welcomed what it called a “huge breakthrough”, urging all parties in Libya to overcome their differences and finalise the deal.

“What happened in Morocco is positive,” said political activist Othman Al-Sassi, stressing that Libya needs a national unity government.

“The Congress was not present but other parties to the Libyan conflict initialled the political agreement and that is a breakthrough,” said Mr Al-Sassi, himself a former GNC member.

Mr Leon told Saturday’s ceremony in Morocco that the door to further negotiations would remain open, expressing confidence that the GNC will return to the negotiations.

“This is one but a very important step on the road to peace ... a peace, which all Libyans have been long seeking to achieve,” he said.

“The door remains open for those who chose not to be here today... I am confident that in the weeks ahead we will try to clarify the issues that remain contentious and address the outstanding concerns,” he added.

The deal initialled on Saturday was the fourth draft proposed by Mr Leon to Libya’s warring factions.

Under the plan, Libya will get a one-year government of national accord. A council of ministers headed by a prime minister and two deputies would have executive authority. The House of Representatives would be the legislative body, a plan meeting opposition from the GNC.

The factions have yet to agree on details.

* Agence France-Presse, with additional reporting from Reuters