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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

Libyan sides take step towards transitional government to end war

Factions are hashing out how to form a new unified government to oversee elections

Stephanie Williams of the UN Support Mission in Libya announced the agreement on a mechanism for choosing a transitional government. AP
Stephanie Williams of the UN Support Mission in Libya announced the agreement on a mechanism for choosing a transitional government. AP

Libyan factions engaged in political talks arranged by the UN made progress towards agreeing to a new transitional government to oversee the run-up to elections in December, the international body said on Saturday.

Participants at the discussions in Geneva agreed on a mechanism for choosing the government, whose formation has been the subject of wrangling among the main factions in a country that is a major oil producer.

Acting UN envoy in Libya, Stephanie Williams, said the agreement represented the "best possible compromise" on the issue and could lead to the selection of a transitional government "in several weeks".

However, she said there would still be "people seeking to obstruct" peacemaking efforts.

The talks are part of a wider peace process, after years of chaos and war, which also involves a ceasefire and an economic track.

Libya has been split since 2014 between rival factions in Tripoli, in the west, and Benghazi in the east.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli is backed by Turkey, while the House of Representatives in the east backs Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army.

However, both sides represent sometimes unstable coalitions of different political, regional and armed factions.

The latest push towards peace began after the GNA turned back a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli in June after major Turkish support. A ceasefire was agreed in Geneva in October.

In November, the UN invited 75 Libyans to join a political dialogue in Tunis, which set a date of December 24, 2021, for presidential and parliamentary elections and agreed on the need for a new, unified transitional government.

The transitional government will be responsible for preparing for the elections, combating corruption and restoring public services across Libya, Ms Williams said.

However, the Tunis meeting stalled when the delegates started discussing the make-up of the new government. Saturday's agreement was made by a smaller committee drawn from the participants.

All 75 members of the dialogue will vote next week on the mechanism the Geneva committee agreed to on Saturday.

The news comes after the UN Security Council gave permission on Friday for Jan Kubis, the UN envoy in Lebanon, to lead the body’s political mission in Libya, a post that has been vacant for nearly a year.

The UN has approved the appointment of Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as its envoy in Libya. He currently serves as the world body's representative in Lebanon. AFP
The UN has approved the appointment of Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as its envoy in Libya. He currently serves as the world body's representative in Lebanon. AFP

The council had until 5pm New York time on Friday to object to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ selection of the former Slovak foreign minister, who previously served as the top UN envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, but diplomats said there were no objections. The official announcement has not yet been made.

Mr Kubis will replace Ghassan Salame, who resigned last March during fierce fighting.

Ms Williams received praise for her handling of recent peace talks.

The Libya post was expected to go to Nikolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, but in late December he turned down the offer for personal and family reasons.

There were objections to two previous suggestions, and the US then insisted the job be split between a special envoy handling the diplomacy and someone to run the UN operation.

The African group in the UN wanted an African in the diplomatic job, but agreed to the second spot running the operation.

The UN announced the appointment last month of Raisedon Zenenga of Zimbabwe as assistant secretary general and co-ordinator of UNSMIL.

Updated: January 17, 2021 10:18 AM

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