Rival Libyan leaders in Paris agree to hold elections in December

he leaders of four rival Libyan factions have committed to holding parliamentary and presidential elections in the strife-torn country in December, after attending a peace conference in Paris.

The four men, who represent a large part of Libya’s competing factions, also agreed to “accept the results of elections, and ensure appropriate funds and strong security arrangements are in place”.

During four hours of talks in Paris, the leaders came under international pressure to agree on a political path to help end seven years of conflict.

 Representatives from 20 countries including Egypt, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey attended the talks, as well as neighbours Algeria and Tunisia.

Libya, an oil-producing nation, has been riven since a 2011 NATO-backed revolt that brought Muammar Gaddafi’s reign to an end. Since 2014, it has been split between competing political and military groups based in Tripoli and the east.

The four leaders included prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, and 75-year-old military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army dominates the country’s east.

Also present were Aguila Saleh Issa, the parliament speaker based in the eastern city of Tobruk who opposes the UN-backed administration, and Khalid Al-Mishri, the newly-elected head of the High Council of State.

All four agreed verbally to the eight-point joint statement, without signing, as originally planned.

“The parties have committed to set the constitutional basis for elections and adopt the necessary electoral laws by September 16, 2018 and hold Parliamentary and Presidential elections on December 10, 2018,” the statement said.

Europe sees restoring stability to Libya as vital to stemming jihadist threats and migration flows from the country, from whose shores hundreds of thousands of Africans have tried to reach Europe in recent years.

“There is no solution other than via you,” Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi told the leaders. “If things go badly, it’s your responsibility.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France hailed the conference as “historic” for bringing the rivals together around the same table for the first time, and said the final agreement was “an essential step toward reconciliation”.

However, analysts and diplomats advised caution regarding swift hopes of progress on the ground.

“It’s positive that they brought together four people from very divergent camps, four big personalities to agree to these set of principles, even if they didn’t sign anything,” said Libya political analyst Tarek Megerisi.

“And if you look at the set of principles signed, they still leave many vagaries, and many areas where not only these four personalities but other stakeholders on the ground in Libya who either refused to come or were not invited will still fight over formalising and seeing how or whether elections can be held at the end of the year.

“So a nice start, but I’m not holding my breath.”

There are security concerns for elections given the amount of arms swilling around Libya. The situation is muddied by competing interests among Middle Eastern countries, which have sometimes backed opposing sides in the fighting, as well as rivalry between European states.

Some rivals within Libya suspect France of favouring Mr Haftar, a military strongman who has fought Islamist militias and who was recently treated in a Parisian hospital for an undisclosed ailment.

Some in Rome have intimated that the French president deliberately held the conference at a time when Italy, which has major oil interests in Libya, is in political turmoil.

“I’m optimistic,” said Ghassan Salame, the UN envoy to Libya, at the end of the talks.

“It’s the Libyans who agree all together in our presence. This is crucial,” he said, adding that he had “never seen “such convergence between the Libyan popular will and the international will”.

TunisianMonitorOnline (The Telegraph)

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