Ri­val Libya lead­ers ‘com­mit to cease­fire, elec­tions’ at talks

Only a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion can end the cri­sis

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS: The two main ri­vals in con­flict-rid­den Libya are com­mit­ted to a cease­fire and hold­ing elec­tions “as soon as pos­si­ble”, ac­cord­ing to a draft state­ment re­leased ahead of French-bro­kered talks yes­ter­day. The com­mu­nique says Libya’s UN-backed Prime Min­is­ter Fayez Al-Sar­raj and Khal­ifa Haf­tar, the mil­i­tary com­man­der who con­trols the re­mote east of the vast coun­try, ac­cept that only a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion can end the cri­sis.

Diplo­matic sources said the two sides had agreed on a joint state­ment but that the text be­ing cir­cu­lated was not the fi­nal ver­sion. The 10-point ver­sion seen by AFP says the cease­fire would not ap­ply to counter-ter­ror­ism ef­forts. It also says the two sides are com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing the rule of law. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who has made Libya one of his for­eign pol­icy pri­or­i­ties, has or­ga­nized the meet­ing and while of­fi­cials ad­mit they have mod­est ex­pec­ta­tions, they say it sends a “strong sig­nal”.

French of­fi­cials are aim­ing to per­suade the two sides to agree on a roadmap to end a con­flict that has plunged the oil-rich coun­try into chaos since the 2011 up­ris­ing that top­pled long­time dic­ta­tor Moamer Kad­hafi. The newly ap­pointed UN en­voy for Libya, Ghas­sam Salame, was to chair the talks, but Macron was to make a state­ment at the end. It is the sec­ond time that Sar­raj and Haf­tar have met in the space of three months af­ter they held talks in Abu Dhabi in May. That meet­ing made lit­tle progress.

Bat­tle for con­trol

Dozens of armed groups have vied for con­trol in Libya in the power vac­uum cre­ated by Kad­hafi’s fall. Sar­raj’s Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord (GNA) has sought to unify pow­er­ful fac­tions, but de­spite sup­port from the United Na­tions has strug­gled to as­sert its au­thor­ity since it be­gan work in Tripoli in March 2016. A ri­val ad­min­is­tra­tion based in Libya’s re­mote east-with which Haf­tar is al­lied-re­fuses to recog­nise Sar­raj’s gov­ern­ment.

Ji­hadist groups have prof­ited from the tur­moil, seiz­ing the Mediter­ranean coastal city of Beng­hazi three years ago, al­though Haf­tar’s forces drove the ex­trem­ists out ear­lier this month. An­other diplo­matic source in­volved in the talks said there was skep­ti­cism about whether the mil­i­tary strong­man was pre­pared to share power.

“We have to hope that when he signs some­thing, he will keep his word,” the source said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity. Hu­man Rights Watch said it was watch­ing the talks closely af­ter a video ap­peared on so­cial me­dia this week show­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of 20 blind­folded peo­ple in or­ange jump­suits, re­port­edly by mem­bers of the self-styled Libyan Na­tional Army (LNA) com­manded by Haf­tar.

Eric Gold­stein, Mid­dle East and North Africa deputy di­rec­tor for Hu­man Rights Watch said, if con­firmed, the ex­e­cu­tions were “yet an­other man­i­fes­ta­tion of how (the LNA’s mem­bers) are tak­ing the law into their own hands in the ab­sence of ac­count­abil­ity and rule of law”. The rights group called for those ac­cused to be re­moved from ac­tive duty and held ac­count­able if found guilty.

Hu­man traf­fick­ers have ex­ploited the chaos in Libya to boost their lu­cra­tive but deadly trade, and the coun­try has this year be­come the main spring­board for mi­grants seek­ing to reach Europe in of­ten flimsy and over­loaded boats. Since Jan­uary, more than 100,000 mi­grants have made the per­ilous voy­age from Libya, with 85,000 ar­riv­ing on the shores of Italy, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion. About 2,360 peo­ple have drowned this year at­tempt­ing to make the jour­ney, the IOM says.

— AFP

PARIS: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron (R) and Libyan Prime Min­is­ter Fayez Al-Sar­raj (L) at­tend a meet­ing for talks aimed at eas­ing ten­sions.

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