World leaders in Paris for Libya election push

Ensuring next month's polls go ahead and the removal of foreign fighters top the agenda

France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi are among senior leaders at the summit in Paris. AFP
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World leaders and senior figures from Libya’s interim government will meet at a Paris summit today in an attempt to ensure upcoming national elections go ahead and foreign forces are removed from the North African country.

The presidential and parliamentary polls are supposed to take place on December 24, but that date is in doubt amid divisions between Libya’s various factions, including over who can run and the rules governing the elections.

Those in attendance include French President Emmanuel Macron, Egyptian leader Abdel Fatah El Sisi, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Libya’s delegation will be headed by Mohammed Al Menfi and Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, the interim president and prime minister respectively.

The two men took office this year in a UN-backed peace process that followed an October 2020 ceasefire after 18 months of conflict.

US Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend during a four-day visit to Paris, saying on Monday she will take part in the conference “to demonstrate our strong support for the people of Libya as they plan for elections”.

It is hoped that elections can provide lasting stability in Libya and help unify its divided institutions. The country has faced a decade of near constant turmoil since the ousting of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Already the parliamentary elections have been pushed back until at least January 2022, according to the eastern-based parliament.

A French presidential official said some parties and individuals were ready to seize on any ambiguities to advance their own interests.

“They are obviously waiting to ambush and try to derail the electoral process,” the official said.

A draft summit conclusion seen by Reuters threatens sanctions against “individuals or entities, inside or outside Libya, who might attempt to obstruct, undermine, manipulate or falsify the electoral process and the political transition".

Another concern is the removal of foreign forces, who have poured into the country in support of various sides, including Turkish soldiers, Russian Wagner Group mercenaries, and fighters from Syria, Sudan and Chad.

The UN has estimated that as many as 20,000 foreign troops have been in Libya in recent years.

Updated: November 12, 2021, 1:34 PM