Libya talks near agreement on new temporary government

Acting Special Representative to UNSMIL Stephanie Williams. Credit: Keystone/Martial Trezzini

A Libyan political dialogue held at the UN in Geneva last week has made significant progress towards agreeing a new transitional government to oversee the run up to elections in the war-torn country at the end of this year.

The UN announced on Saturday that participants in the four-day talks had agreed on a mechanism for choosing the temporary executive authority, the formation of which has been a major point of contention between the main factions in the country for many months.

Acting UN envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams said the agreement was “the best possible compromise” on the issue, and could lead to the selection of a transitional government “in several weeks”. The government will be in place until the elections, which will be held on 24 December 2021 to coincide with Libyan Independence Day.

Williams said the proposed mechanism, which will be voted on by all 75 members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) this week, “embodies the principles of full inclusivity, transparency and fair representation across regions and within different population groups.”

Once selected, the unified transitional government will be “tasked with putting in place the necessary conditions for the elections to take place,” said Williams. “It will also launch national reconciliation that will seek to combat corruption and restore the delivery of public services across the country” which have been buckled by the conflict, she added.

The talks, launched in November last year by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), are part of longstanding efforts to end the turmoil that has engulfed the country ever since the toppling of long-time leader Col Muammar Gaddafi by Nato-backed forces in 2011.

Since 2014, Libya has been split between rival factions: the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli is backed by Turkey, and the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt.

Following the ceasefire agreement, which was reached in Geneva in October last year, the UN invited 75 Libyans to join a political dialogue in Tunis, where the date for presidential and parliamentary elections was agreed.

However, the dialogue stalled when delegates failed to reach an agreement on the makeup of this new government and its selection process. The talks in Geneva last week therefore convened a smaller committee drawn from participants in the political dialogue to break the deadlock, but all 75 members of the LPDF will now vote on the agreement they reached.

The ceasefire agreed in October came after the GNA ended a 14-month offensive on Tripoli in June. However, the ceasefire and arms embargo has been widely flouted in recent months, prompting the UN to call for the nomination of monitors to oversee it. This would be the first time the organisation has taken steps on the ground to actively enforce the ceasefire. The agreement also included plans for all foreign troops to leave Libya within three months, although there has been no sign of this happening so far.