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Latest Libya talks raise election hopes

FILE PHOTO: A Libyan woman casts her ballot at a polling center during voting in the parliamentary elections in Tripoli, Libya, Wednesday, 25 June 2014. (Keystone / AP Photo / Mohammed Ben Khalifa)

Representatives from Libya’s rival parties last night took tentative steps in efforts to resolve the country’s political and economic crises after concluding three-day talks held in Montreux. 

The meeting, which was organised by the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) and sponsored by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), aimed to “relaunch the political process” and pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections in Libya.

In a statement, HD said participants had agreed to submit recommendations to the Libyan Political Dialogue, offering hope of further de-escalation in the conflict which has paralyzed the country.

Stephanie Williams, acting special representative of the secretary-general and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said she “warmly welcomes” the outcomes of the consultations: 

“UNSMIL commends the goodwill and national dedication of the Libyan participants who seized this opportunity to put aside their longstanding differences and disputes to recommend a Libyan-Libyan solution that can be put on the table for the early resumption of the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.”

Why this is important. Libya has been riven by turmoil ever since the toppling of long-time leader Col Muammar Gadaffi by Nato-backed forces in 2011.

With a worsening socioeconomic situation, exacerbated by the conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic, the “consensual view” among the participants to recommend the holding of elections in the country is another welcome step towards a Libyan-led comprehensive solution to the crisis.

The latest round of talks comes after Libya’s opposing factions announced a ceasefire on 21 August – the first time leaders had come together since the start of the war in 2019. 

The internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in March.  The truce was also agreed by forces led by veteran commander Khalifa Haftar, who controls large parts of east and southern Libya 

Moving forward. The participants put forward recommendations which will be submitted to the Libyan Political Dialogue that will be convened in the near future. Here are some of the key recommendations:

  • Presidential and parliamentary elections must be held at the end of an eighteen-month preparatory period on the basis of an agreed-upon constitutional basis. 

  • The Presidency Council shall be reformed, and a representative unity government shall be established to provide services and create the necessary conditions for the holding of national elections – including processes for national and social reconciliation such as the end of illegal and political detention, resuming the amnesty law for political prisoners, the safe return of the deported and displaced, and reparations for damages.

  • Executive offices and the House of Representatives will relocate to the city of Sirte during the preparatory period, following appropriate security and logistical arrangements.