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Political deadlock persisted one year after Libya split into two rival govts.
East-based parliament continued to chart unilateral path out of political crisis. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) 7 Feb approved constitutional amendment that could be used as basis for elections. Amendment calls for simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections to take place within 240 days of adoption of election laws by joint committee of HoR and Tripoli-based advisory High State Council (HSC) members. Tripoli-based critics of HoR, including some HSC members, accused body of seeking to buy time, notably opposing open timeline for drafting election laws and obligation to have presidential election. In another unilateral move, HoR President Aghela Saleh 16 Feb proposed formation of 45-member committee – including HoR, HSC and independent members – to decide on new executive to replace two govts now in place.
UN Libya envoy proposed new initiative to break stalemate. In briefing to UN Security Council, Special Representative for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily 27 Feb criticised HoR’s constitutional amendment as “controversial”, underscoring that it does not stipulate clear roadmap, including timeline, for holding elections in 2023. Instead, Bathily proposed formation of high-level steering committee composed of representatives of political and security institutions, and other political, tribal and civil society leaders to facilitate adoption of legal framework and time-bound roadmap to enable elections in 2023.
UN welcomed coordination mechanism for withdrawal of foreign fighters. UN Support Mission to Libya 8 Feb said officials from Libya’s 5+5 Joint Military Commission – which brings together representatives of armed forces from eastern and western Libya – as well as liaison committees from Sudan and Niger, approved “coordination mechanism” for “withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya” during two-day meeting in Egypt. Mechanism unlikely to affect presence of Turkish forces alongside Tripoli govt or Russian Wagner contractors alongside eastern forces.
Energy deal with Italian company ENI sparked controversy. Opponents of Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba, including his own oil minister and HoR members, early Feb criticised as “illegal” $8bn agreement struck late Jan between National Oil Corporation and Italian state-owned oil company ENI, arguing it required HoR buy-in; investment plan notably outlines steps to increase Libya’s oil and gas export capacity.
Dialogue between rival assemblies on amending draft constitution to chart roadmap toward elections reached dead end, and disputes around demarcation of maritime boundaries continued.
Rival assemblies’ dialogue track came to an abrupt halt. Heads of rival assemblies, Aghela Saleh of Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and Khaled Mishri of Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC), 5 Jan met in Egyptian capital Cairo, pledged in vaguely-worded joint statement to refer amended constitutional draft to their respective chambers. Cairo 11 Jan hosted meeting between head of Presidential Council Mohamed Menfi and head of Libyan National Army, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar; 15 January held another meeting between Menfi, Haftar and Saleh. Saleh in following days however refused to sign off on document outlining key agreements between HoR and HSC and reaffirmed HoR is Libya’s one and only legislative body and does not need HSC’s approval, suggesting that HoR amend 2011 constitutional declaration “before March”.
Diplomatic initiatives to press for elections continued. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns 12 Jan made first visit to Libya since 2012, met with PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba in capital Tripoli and reportedly also with Haftar in Benghazi city; Burns pressed on his interlocutors need to move forward with elections before year’s end. Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan 17 Jan also visited Tripoli and met with Dabaiba and Mishri to discuss political situation; reportedly also met with some armed groups’ leaders in Tripoli.
Controversies over disputed demarcation of maritime boundaries continued. National Oil Corporation 2 Jan protested against Athens’ ongoing oil and gas exploration in waters disputed between Greece and Libya. Tripoli’s Court of Appeals 9 Jan suspended implementation of Libya-Türkiye deal on oil and gas exploration that two countries had signed in Oct until final verdict on case. Meanwhile, Tripoli-based Govt of National Unity 28 Jan signed deals with Italian govt aimed at boosting Libyan energy supplies to Europe and clamping down on migrants attempting to cross Mediterranean Sea.
UN efforts to foster dialogue between rival parliaments faced new challenges, handover of terrorism suspect to U.S. sparked outrage domestically, and maritime borders riled Mediterranean waters.
Spat erupted between country’s rival parliaments after period of rapprochement. East-based House of Representatives (HoR) 6 Dec voted to set up constitutional court in eastern city of Benghazi. Tripoli-based advisory High Council of State (HCS) same day condemned move – which could invalidate recently reactivated Tripoli-based Constitutional Chamber – as unlawful, and 11 Dec suspended contact with HoR. HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh and HCS Chairman Khaled al-Mishri 23 Dec however agreed to drop plans to create constitutional court. Meanwhile, meeting between Saleh and al-Mishri scheduled for 4 Dec as part of UN-led political process postponed for “logistical reasons” and “political obstacles”. U.S. embassy in Libya 24 Dec called for “alternative mechanisms” to be considered as way of producing constitutional basis for elections if HoR-HCS talks fail.
Handover of Lockerbie suspect to U.S. sparked tensions. Media outlets, including British daily The Guardian 13 Dec, reported Tripoli-based govt (GNU) handed over Abu Ajila Masoud al-Marimi – key suspect in bombing of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie town in Scotland in 1988 – to U.S. authorities after armed group in Nov kidnapped him in Tripoli. Head of rival govt, east-based PM Fathi Bashagha, 13 Dec called move “illegal”. Attorney general’s office next day announced investigation into Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba’s decision to extradite Masoud, and demonstrations against extradition 16 Dec took place in several cities.
Standoff persisted over maritime borders in Mediterranean Sea. GNU 7 Dec criticised as “irresponsible” Greece’s recent agreements with energy firms for oil and gas exploration near maritime borders with Libya. Athens same day retorted that GNU’s recent energy deals with Türkiye violated international law. After Egyptian President al-Sisi 11 Dec issued decree demarcating Egypt’s western maritime border, GNU 16 Dec and HoR 22 Dec said decision violated Libya’s territorial waters. Bashagha 14 Dec called on Egypt, Türkiye and Greece to not “take any unilateral steps” that would “worsen the situation in the Mediterranean”. Greek media late-Dec reported Athens plans to extend territorial waters south and west of Crete island.
Tensions between Tripoli-based institutions reached new heights as country remained divided into two rival govts with no political solution in sight.
Rival institutions remained at odds on means to resolve political crisis. Tripoli-based advisory High Council of State (HCS) Chair Khalid al-Meshri 14 Nov accused militiamen affiliated with Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba of “besieging” HCS headquarters; said HCS had convened session to follow up on tentative agreement with eastern-based legislature House of Representatives (HoR) to work toward forming new unity govt. Dabaiba, who is opposed to HoR-HSC negotiations, immediately denounced “incitement and exaggeration”, saying only “a few” protesters had gathered outside HCS building, accused Meshri of making secret “power-sharing” deals to delay elections. HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh same day condemned “threats and intimidation by armed groups using force” against HCS. Dabaiba 29 Nov reportedly accused Meshri and Saleh of “systematically obstructing elections”. East-based military commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar around 22 Nov weighed in on political crisis, saying “time has come for the Libyan people to put an end to failed experiments and dead ends”, accusing politicians of “worshipping their seats of power”.
Greek FM’s refusal to meet Tripoli-based govt minister sparked diplomatic spat. After Tripoli-based Govt of National Unity (GNU) in Oct signed deal with Türkyie on oil and gas exploration in areas of Mediterranean contested by Athens, Greek FM Nikos Dendias 17 Nov canceled Tripoli visit upon landing to avoid being welcomed by his Libyan counterpart, FM Najla al-Mangoush; Dendias claimed he had come to meet Tripoli-based Presidential Council head Mohamed al-Menfi. GNU subsequently recalled its ambassador from Athens and summoned Greek chargé d’affaires in Tripoli.
In other important developments. In his briefing to UN Security Council, UN sec-gen’s special representative for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, 15 Nov renewed call for legislative and presidential elections but did not articulate how he planned to address sources of friction over electoral roadmap. International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan early Nov met with Haftar during first ever visit to Libya, 9 Nov told UN Security Council he expects latter to cooperate with ICC investigations into alleged crimes committed by Haftar’s Libyan National Army.
Series of deals between Ankara and Tripoli inflamed internal and regional tensions; UN Security Council extended political mission’s mandate as new envoy took office in capital Tripoli.
Energy deals between Tripoli-based govt and Ankara triggered uproar. Tripoli-based govt 3 Oct signed preliminary economic and maritime agreements with Türkiye, opening door to joint oil and gas exploration and drillings in Libya-claimed Exclusive Economic Zone in Mediterranean, disputed by Egypt and Greece. East-based PM Bashagha and House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aguila Saleh immediately rejected deal as null and void, saying Tripoli-based govt’s term expired in Dec 2021. Egypt and Greece 3 and 9 Oct condemned hydrocarbon exploration deal as “illegal”, with Athens vowing to oppose it “with all legal means”. EU 3 Oct reiterated that it considers 2019 agreement demarcating Turkish and Libyan Exclusive Economic Zones (which latest oil and gas deal builds on) as infringement of sovereign rights of other states. Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba 25 Oct travelled to Türkiye and reportedly signed two military deals with Turkish govt with a view to strengthening military cooperation.
Rival camps held military parades, adopted bellicose rhetoric. On occasion of military parade in southern city of Sebha, East-based military commander Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar 17 Oct called for popular “rebellion” against “governmental failure”; said his forces “are ready to protect the people in their uprising”. Forces loyal to Tripoli-based govt 22 Oct held televised military exercise in Dabaiba’s presence. Aguila Saleh and Khaled al-Mishri, head of Tripoli-based High State Council, 20-21 Oct met in Morocco, said they had agreed to take steps to unify rival govts and resume dialogue on holding elections; Dabaiba 21 Oct rejected “parallel paths”.
UN renewed efforts to help break political stalemate. New UN Sec-Gen Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily 14 Oct arrived in Tripoli to assume his duties and in following days held talks with rival leaders, including Dabaiba, Aguila Saleh, Presidential Council Chairman Mohammed al-Menfi, and National Oil Corporation chairman Farhat Bengdara. UN Security Council 28 Oct unanimously extended political mission UNSMIL’s mandate for another year, urged parties to agree on roadmap to presidential and parliamentary elections.
Crisis of two rival govts remained intractable as Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha came out weakened of failed efforts to enter capital Tripoli.PM Dabaiba continued to consolidate control in Tripoli. Militias aligned with Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba early Sept reportedly took over security headquarters in Ain Zara town south of Tripoli after repelling forces loyal to rival Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha in late Aug. Situation inside Tripoli remained calm in Sept, but renewed clashes between rival armed factions 2-3 Sept broke out in Warshafana area west of Tripoli with reports of mortar fire. Fighting 25-26 Sept also erupted in Zawiya town, 40km west of Tripoli, allegedly over fuel trafficking; at least five people killed including ten-year-old girl; UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) next day “condemned the use of heavy artillery in densely populated neighbourhoods”.Parties sought to strengthen relations with Ankara. Dabaiba and Bashagha, 31 Aug-1 Sept made parallel visits to Türkiye to seek Ankara’s support. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 14 Sept said Türkiye seeks to “build good relations” with various Libyan parties amid media reports that Turkish drones turned late-Aug clashes in Dabaiba’s favour.New UN envoy appointed. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 2 Sept appointed Senegalese diplomat and former govt minister Abdoulaye Bathily as special representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL after obtaining Security Council’s approval, ending nine-month search. Dabaiba, who in Aug had reportedly objected to Bathily’s nomination, 3 Sept assured envoy of his “full support”. Bathily, who 25 Sept officially assumed duties, will have to mediate between Libyan factions now divided between those adamant that Dabaiba stay on until elections, those proposing new power-sharing deal and govt reshuffle under Dabaiba, and those calling for entirely new “third” govt. Foreign capitals also split on path ahead.In other important developments. After power struggle erupted in Aug between Supreme Court and Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh 15 Sept announced appointment of Abdullah Abu Razizah as new chief justice of Supreme Court to replace Mohammed Al-Hafi; Abu Razizah few days later took office.
Worst fighting in years broke out in capital Tripoli between forces loyal to rival govts, raising prospect of a return to full-blown war. Fighting 26-27 Aug raged across Tripoli as forces aligned with Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR)-appointed PM Bashagha failed to take control of capital and oust Tripoli-based govt of PM Dabaiba; 32 people reportedly killed and 159 injured. Flare-up followed days of escalating tensions between rival factions. Smaller-scale clashes 5-6 Aug opposed Bashagha-aligned forces and militia loyal to Dabaiba near airport road in Tripoli. Amid build-up of forces outside Tripoli, UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) 23 Aug called for “immediate de-escalation”, warned that “current political stalemate [...] cannot be resolved through armed confrontation”. Bashagha 24 Aug called on Dabaiba to step down and peacefully hand over power to avoid bloodshed; Dabaiba rejected call, denounced “threats to ignite war” and vowed that no one would be allowed to meddle with security of Tripoli. Dabaiba 25 Aug urged head of Tripoli-based consultative High State Council, Khalid Al-Mishri, and HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh to approve constitutional basis for elections. Meanwhile, Supreme Court 18 Aug announced decision to reactivate its Constitutional Chamber, which had been inactive since 2016. Dabaiba same day welcomed move, saying it could act as “deterrent” to “abuses and violations” of 2015 power-sharing agreement. Opponents however denounced political manoeuvring in reaction to HoR session held 16 Aug, during which lawmakers voted on amending statutes of Supreme Court and ruled it could appoint advisers to top court. After Dabaiba in July changed oil leadership, Central Bank 2 Aug reportedly disbursed 8.5bn dinars to National Oil Corporation as part of 15bn “urgent and temporary financial arrangement” concluded in mid-April. Libya’s envoy to UN, Taher El-Sonni, 15 Aug said Dabaiba’s govt had rejected UN proposal to appoint Senegalese former Minister Abdoulaye Bathily as new head of UNSMIL; move came after UN Security Council late July extended UNSMIL’s mandate for only three months amid Russian insistence that new UN mission head is chosen before it agrees to longer extension.
Wave of protests highlighted popular frustration with political standoff; deadly clashes erupted between rival factions in capital Tripoli; and oil exports resumed after controversial oil leadership change. Series of spontaneous demonstrations – driven by difficult living conditions, including recurring electricity cuts, and political actors’ inability to form consensus on elections – early July rocked several cities across country. Notably, protesters 1 July stormed and set fire to House of Representatives building in eastern city of Tobruk. Under pressure from popular mobilisation and shrinking prospect of any political breakthrough, Sirte-based PM Bashagha 8 July said his govt would in following days attempt to take office in Tripoli with support of loyal armed forces; military commanders of Western region 13 July reiterated Tripoli is “a red line”, vowed to confront any attempts to sow discord among security components in capital. Deadly fighting between rival factions 21-22 July broke out in several Tripoli neighbourhoods, with 16 people reportedly killed; in response, Tripoli-based PM Dabaiba 22 July suspended Interior Minister Khaled Mazen, replacing him on an interim basis with local govt Minister Bader Eddine al-Toumi. Meanwhile, Dabaiba 12 July dismissed National Oil Corporation (NOC) Chairman Mustafa Sanalla, replaced him with former Central Bank Governor Farhat Bengdara. Sanalla next day rejected decision, said Dabaiba’s mandate to govern had expired. Militia loyal to Dabaiba 14 July deployed outside NOC headquarters in Tripoli and installed Bengdara as chairman. NOC’s new leadership 15 July lifted force majeure which was declared in April at several oil facilities, enabling oil production and exports to resume in following days; NOC 31 July said crude production had returned to pre-force majeure levels of 1.2mn barrels per day. Arabic language media outlets Al Jazeera Arabic and Al-Araby Al-Jadeed in July reported growing convergence between Dabaiba and eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Notably, Lt-Gen Abdelrazzak Al-Nadhouri, second in command of Haftar-led forces, 18-19 July reportedly met with Lt-Gen Muhammad Al-Haddad, chief of staff of Libyan army, to discuss unification of military institution. Meanwhile, U.S. judge 29 July found Haftar liable for war crimes over alleged extrajudicial killings and torture in Libya, paving the way for plaintiffs to seek compensation.
Crisis of two govts dragged on as UN-led talks failed to forge consensus on constitutional basis for elections. House of Representatives (HoR) 15 June passed Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha’s proposed govt budget. Bashagha unlikely to be able to tap into state funds, however, as Tripoli-based Govt of National Unity (GNU) immediately rejected budget, and Central Bank of Libya Governor Siddiq Elkebir, who is in charge of making disbursements into govt accounts, did not signal he would recognise budget. Bashagha’s efforts to win international support remained unsuccessful. UN Sec-Gen office 23 June said UN would continue to recognise Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba as legitimate PM until elections are held. Delegates of HoR and Tripoli-based High State Council 12-20 June met in Egypt’s capital Cairo for third round of UN-sponsored political talks, failed to find agreement on constitutional basis for elections; new UN-convened talks between rival assemblies’ chairmen 28-29 June took place in Switzerland, failed to make breakthrough. Simultaneously, some politicians in recent weeks tried to forge consensus for “third” govt to replace both Bashagha and Dabaiba-led executives, while eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and Dabaiba aides in June allegedly met outside Libya to negotiate deal aimed at persuading Haftar to drop support for Bashagha in favour of Dabaiba. Politically driven closures of oil sector throughout June persisted, with production fluctuating between 600,000-900,000 barrels/day, equivalent to 50-75% of country’s total oil production before closures; National Oil Corporation 30 June declared force majeure on oil terminals of Sidra and Ras Lanuf in Gulf of Sirte region due to shutdown of oilfields. Meanwhile, security situation in capital Tripoli remained tense. Notably, rival western militias 10 June clashed in Souk el-Tlath neighbourhood, leaving at least one dead; UN Support Mission in Libya next day expressed concerned and urged restraint, also reported mobilisation of armed groups from areas surrounding Tripoli. Heavy fighting between rival GNU-affiliated militias 22 June left three combatants and one civilian dead in Zawiyet Al-Dahmani neighbourhood. Pan-Arab media 23 June reported clashes at military base in Tripoli as 22 June transitional phase deadline set by 2020 roadmap passed.
Political crisis took violent turn as forces loyal to rival govts clashed in capital Tripoli amid lack of substantial progress in UN-led negotiations; oil and gas fields and export terminals remained closed. Tobruk-based PM Fathi Bashagha 17 May entered Tripoli in bid to install his govt in capital city; armed groups loyal to Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba mobilised and opened fire, leaving one person killed; Dabaiba’ camp reportedly granted Bashagha safe passage out of Tripoli following mediation by local actors and members of 5+5 Joint Military Commission – comprising representatives of Libya’s two rival military coalitions. In televised addresses same day, Dabaiba condemned “coup project”, said Bashagha “committed suicide politically”, while Bashagha said his govt would be based in central city of Sirte but claimed Dabaiba had “lost control” of Tripoli. Reports in following days emerged that Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aghela Saleh and head of Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC) Khaled Mishri mid-May met in Egypt, agreed to work together toward “third way” including new govt that would replace Dabaiba and Bashagha’s; latter’s entourage however denied Saleh had dropped his support for Bashagha. UN-led negotiations made little substantial progress in charting way out of political impasse. UN Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams 15-20 May convened second round of talks between representatives of rival assemblies in Egypt’s capital Cairo; participants reviewed 2017 draft constitution and found consensus on two thirds of articles, but failed to concretely discuss roadmap to elections and crisis of two rival govts; talks to resume 11 June. Oil and gas fields and export terminals – shut down in mid-April by pro-Libyan National Army head, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and pro-Bashagha constituencies to weaken Dabaiba’s access to oil revenues – remained closed; crude oil exports down to approximately 700,000 barrels/day, one third less than normal, with estimated $40mn daily loss of foregone oil sales revenues. As part of U.S. efforts to persuade rival authorities to accept “financial mechanism” to oversee disbursement of govt funds, U.S. ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, 26 May met in Tunisia with various state institution representatives.
Political feud engulfed country’s economic and financial institutions as rival authorities sought to secure access to oil revenues; UN efforts to negotiate way out of political impasse remained vain. Five military officers loyal to eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 9 April withdrew from UN-backed so-called 5+5 Joint Military Commission (comprising representatives of country’s two rival military coalitions), urged Haftar to shut down oil production to prevent Tripoli-based PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba from accessing oil revenues; move came after National Oil Corporation (NOC) transferred oil sales revenues to Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya (CBL), whose governor has remained loyal to Dabaiba, despite promising in March to abide by Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) order not to do so. NOC mid-April declared force majeure and suspended operations at Al-Feel and Sharara oil fields, Zuwetina and Brega oil terminals, after local protesters allegedly backed by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) entered sites; all sites remained closed by month’s end. Clashes between two rival militias allied with Dabaiba’s govt 22 April disrupted operations in Zawiya oil facility (west). Meanwhile, delegates from HoR and rival Tripoli-based consultative High State Council (HSC) 13-18 April attended UN-backed political talks on legal framework for elections in Egypt’s capital Cairo; participants failed to make breakthrough but agreed to resume talks in May (after Muslim holy month of Ramadan). HoR-appointed PM Fathi Bashagha 21 April presided over his first cabinet meeting in Sebha city (south); govt renewed commitment to pursuing “peaceful option” to assume duties in Tripoli. Meanwhile, Islamic State (ISIS) 19 April claimed responsibility for previous night car bomb attack targeting LNA camp in Umm al-Aranib town (south); no casualties reported. LNA said it repelled 25 April attack by armed group, reportedly affiliated with ISIS, in Ghadwa area near Sabha city. British daily newspaper Financial Times 28 April reported some 1,000 pro-Moscow Syrian mercenaries and about 200 operatives from Russian private military company Wagner Group, who had been stationed alongside Haftar-led forces, pulled out of Libya in recent weeks; also said some 5,000 pro-Moscow mercenaries allegedly remain in country.
Crisis of two rival govts raised spectre of renewed localised clashes and tug of war over control of state’s resources, putting 2020 ceasefire at risk. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) 1 March endorsed PM Fathi Bashagha’s 39-member cabinet in controversial vote of confidence marred by procedural shortcomings. Bashagha same day vowed to install his govt in capital Tripoli “peacefully and securely”. Tripoli-based incumbent PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba immediately condemned “fraudulent vote”, refused to cede power and said he will “hold accountable anyone who dares to approach any government building” in Tripoli. Armed groups loyal to Tripoli-based govt 3 March shut down airspace and detained two ministers of Bashagha-led govt to impede them from attending swearing-in ceremony in Tobruk city (east); ministers released next day, domestic flights between east and west resumed 22 March. Pro-Bashagha forces 10 March deployed on eastern edges of Tripoli, raising fears of confrontation with pro-Dabaiba forces. U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland immediately warned against escalation, while UN mission same day called on parties to “refrain from any action that could lead to armed clashes”. Bashagha next day said forces had withdrawn and assured “there will not be a war”. Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s forces 15 March stormed Dabaiba’s Government of National Unity (GNU) headquarters in Benghazi city (east) and dismissed all employees; later handed building over to Bashagha’s govt deputy PM Salim Al-Zadma. UN Under Sec-Gen for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo 16 March warned Security Council that “political polarization” in Libya “risks dividing the institutions once again”; also highlighted recent increase in human rights violations, hate speech and political violence. After UN Special Adviser on Libya Stephanie Williams 4 March asked HoR and Tripoli-based consultative High State Council (HSC) to nominate six delegates each to form “joint committee” to resolve political impasse, HSC 15 March nominated representatives, but HoR failed to appoint representatives and did not attend UN-backed HoR-HSC Joint Committee talks in Tunisia 22-24 March. Bashagha 22 March banned implementation of GNU-issued decrees or instructions; next day accused GNU of usurping power and occupying state institutions’ headquarters in Tripoli; 26-28 March repeatedly vowed to enter Tripoli in next few days.
House of Representatives appointed Fathi Bashagha as new PM, increasing polarisation and raising risk of institutional division; vote of confidence in new govt could result in two rival govts vying for power. Unidentified gunmen 10 Feb attacked incumbent PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba’s convoy in capital Tripoli; sources close to Dabaiba denounced “assassination attempt”. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) hours later appointed former Tripoli-based Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha as PM-designate and tasked him with forming new govt by late Feb. HoR same day postponed elections indefinitely by passing new political roadmap stipulating HoR and rival Tripoli-based assembly, High State Council, will task experts committee with amending never-adopted 2017 draft constitution; amendments to be subjected to referendum prior to elections. Bashagha’s appointment follows 2021 deal with his past foe, Libyan National Army head Khalifa Haftar, providing that in case of failure to hold presidential election in Dec 2021, Haftar would support Bashagha as head of new govt in return for concessions in cabinet line-up and on condition that Bashagha increase funds allocated to Haftar-led military forces. Dabaiba immediately rejected HoR’s move, vowed to remain in post until national elections are held. Hundreds 11 Feb demonstrated in Tripoli and Misrata city against HoR; military brigades loyal to Dabaiba next day converged on Tripoli from other towns to “secure the government headquarters and key sites in the capital”. Dabaiba 21 Feb announced multi-track plan leading to parliamentary elections in June and postponing constitutional review and presidential election to after new parliament is seated; also reiterated elections “sole solution” to political crisis. HoR 28 Feb postponed vote of confidence in Bashagha’s proposed govt citing need for more consultations on cabinet line-up. Foreign powers remained divided on way forward, with several foreign capitals adopting wait-and-see attitude while Egypt and Russia supported Bashagha’s bid to premiership. Dabaiba’s Govt of National Unity 17 Feb criticised UN Special Adviser Stephanie Williams for allegedly making contradictory statements on political crisis.
Following failure to hold presidential election in late Dec, parliament and others manoeuvred to postpone polls indefinitely. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aguila Saleh 17 Jan called for replacing interim Govt of National Unity (GNU) with new govt, contending PM Dabaiba’s mandate expired 24 Dec, and proposed new constitutional drafting process. High National Election Commission (HNEC) same day said six to eight months needed to resume electoral process (constitutional drafting process notwithstanding), 20 Jan set up committee to review presidential candidacies submitted in Nov. Dabaiba 23 Jan also called for adoption of new constitution before elections, but denied his mandate expired on 24 Dec, insisting new govt can only be appointed following elections. UN Special Adviser Stephanie Williams 24 Jan insisted “Libya does not need another prolonged transitional period”; comment came after Williams 16 Jan said holding elections by June, in line with UN-brokered 2020 roadmap, was “very reasonable and possible”. Dabaiba 31 Jan announced applications for interim PM would open next day and said HoR would meet 8 Feb to vote on new PM; several politicians throughout month appeared to campaign for PM position, including former Tripoli-based Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and Tripoli-based High State Council Chair Khaled Mishri, both of whom recently made important overtures to eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated combatants 24 Jan claimed having killed two security personnel near southern town of Sabha one week earlier; new attack in same area 26 Jan reportedly killed another three. Meanwhile, French govt 4 Jan said around 300 mercenaries had left eastern Libya, hailing start of phased withdrawal of thousands of foreign forces in line with 2020 ceasefire. Central Bank Governor Saddek Omar Elkaber 20 Jan announced launch of bank’s reunification process. Brussels Prosecutor’s Office 21 Jan said it had issued international arrest warrant against Libyan Investment Authority Chairman Ali Mahmoud Hassan on corruption and embezzlement charges as part of investigation into management of Libyan assets frozen in Belgium after fall of Muammar Qadhafi in 2011.
Authorities postponed presidential election in last-minute move as tensions ran high around capital Tripoli. Amid disputes over eligibility of candidates, electoral timetable and scope of future president’s powers, High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) 20-22 Dec postponed first round of presidential election, initially scheduled for 24 Dec, for one month, as House of Representatives (HoR) committee tasked with monitoring election process 22 Dec said it was “impossible” to hold polls as planned. U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland immediately expressed “disappointment”. After British embassy 24 Dec expressed continued support for Govt of National Unity (GNU), said it would “not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions”, HoR Foreign Affairs Committee next day accused UK of “interference”, said only HoR could decide on formation of new govt or continuation of GNU. Elections unlikely to take place in Jan as HoR election committee 27 Dec recommended laying out “new, realistic and applicable roadmap … rather than fixing new dates and repeating the same errors”; HoR next day suspended session on political roadmap. Earlier in month, several controversial presidential candidates cleared to run: Tripoli Appeals Court 1 Dec upheld PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba’s presidential bid; Sebha Appeals Court next day reinstated Saif al-Islam Qadhafi as candidate; Tripoli Appeals Court 6 Dec overturned Zawiya court ruling barring Khalifa Haftar from running. Run-up to tentative polls marred by tensions. HNEC 2 Dec said electoral centres subjected to armed robbery and voter cards theft; militiamen 8 Dec entered HNEC’s Zawiya premises to demand postponement of elections until adoption of new constitution. Forces affiliated with different armed groups 16-21 Dec took up positions in and around Tripoli in possible protest at Presidential Council’s 15 Dec decision to replace Tripoli Military Zone Commander Gen Abdelbasit Marwan with Gen Abdelkader Mansour; Council 21 Dec suspended appointment, while UN mission (UNSMIL) same day said mobilisation “creates tensions and increases the risk of clashes that could spiral into conflict”. Following Nov resignation of UN Envoy Ján Kubiš, UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 6 Dec appointed Stephanie Williams – who served as Acting Special Representative in March 2020-Jan 2021 – as new Special Adviser on Libya.
Registration of polarising presidential hopefuls amid heated controversy over electoral framework could presage mobilisation of rival forces around 24 Dec polls. Several controversial figures submitted presidential candidacies to electoral commission throughout Nov: son of late dictator Muammar Qadhafi, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, who is wanted by International Criminal Court, 14 Nov; eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar 16 Nov; and PM Abdulhamid Dabaiba 21 Nov. Election commission 24 Nov disqualified 25 out of 98 registered candidates, including Qhadafi. Qhadafi’s lawyer late-Nov tried to appeal decision, but Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) forces impeded access to Sebha courthouse where appeal should be filed; LNA 30 Nov reportedly withdrew. Tripoli court 28 Nov accepted appeal submitted by presidential hopefuls against Dabaiba’s candidacy, while Benghazi court same day rejected appeal against Haftar’s candidacy. Electoral Commission expected to release final list of presidential candidates in early Dec. Meanwhile, several Tripoli-based anti-Haftar and anti-Qadhafi constituencies voiced opposition to presidential and parliamentary election laws unilaterally adopted by House of Representatives (HoR) in Sept-Oct. Notably, some 25 mayors 9 Nov signed petition against electoral framework; in following days, some 40 HoR members, and separately military coalition of anti-Haftar forces, endorsed petition. French President Emmanuel Macron 12 Nov hosted international conference for Libya; world powers reaffirmed need to hold elections on time and vowed to push for sanctions against anyone who disrupts electoral process, but some cracks appeared among foreign stakeholders and within UN over current electoral framework. Both UK and Italy’s representatives stressed need for consensus on election legislation, while Egypt and France did not express any concern on current electoral framework. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres same day urged Libyans “to come together in a spirit of national unity” and “forge a consensus on the legal framework for the elections”; statement departed from line of UN Envoy Ján Kubiš, who in recent weeks rubberstamped HoR’s electoral laws; Kubiš 23 Nov offered his resignation which Guterres accepted. UN Security Council next day threatened sanctions against those “obstructing or undermining the elections”.
Uncertainty persisted over whether elections will take place in Dec, while tensions within PM Dabaiba’s govt resurfaced. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) 6 Oct issued long-awaited parliamentary election law despite lack of proper qualified majority and without consulting political rivals; text envisages parliamentary elections taking place several months after presidential election set for 24 Dec. Critics, especially among Tripoli-based constituencies, immediately denounced procedural flaws and said sequencing violates political component of UN-backed peace plan that envisages simultaneous presidential and legislative elections. Participants in Libya Stabilization Conference in capital Tripoli, 21 Oct reiterated their support for 24 Dec date (set during UN-backed forum in Nov 2020), as did embassies of France, Germany, Italy, UK and U.S. in joint statement 25 Oct. So-called 5+5 Joint Military Commission, comprising representatives of Libya’s two rival military coalitions, 6-8 Oct met in Switzerland’s Geneva city in presence of UN Envoy Ján Kubiš, agreed on Action Plan envisaging “phased, balanced and synchronized withdrawal” of mercenaries, foreign fighters and forces. Tensions still brewing between Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) and Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNU) over salary disputes, with GNU refusing to pay ALAF salaries to Haftar’s central command and instead demanding to make direct payment to individual bank accounts. Political tensions between easterners within GNU and PM Dabaiba resurfaced. Notably, deputy PM Hussein al-Qatrani and others 10 Oct accused Dabaiba of sidelining ministers from east. Amid stalled unification of Central Bank, Dabaiba’s govt took controversial measures against heads of some top income-generating institutions, notably sacking head of state-owned Telecommunications holding company Faisal Gergab mid-Oct, allegedly after latter’s refusal to authorise transfer of profits into govt accounts; oil ministry 19 Oct also announced suspension of National Oil Corporation head Mustafa Sanalla, officially to allow investigations into alleged administrative offences. UN human rights investigators 4 Oct said war crimes and crimes against humanity likely committed by all conflict parties, including external actors, since 2016.
Prospects of holding elections by year’s end fading as parliament unilaterally issued presidential election law and voted no-confidence motion against unity govt, escalating political tensions. Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aghila Saleh 8 Sept ratified presidential election law without putting it to vote or consulting rival political factions; law establishes strong presidential system of governance. Unilateral move sparked ire of western-based authorities. Rival assembly, Tripoli-based consultative High State Council (HSC), next day decried law as “flawed” due to lack of consultations, vowed to oppose it in court. Other Tripoli-based political opponents claimed it was designed to impose presidential election alone, without parliamentary ones, despite UN-backed roadmap requiring to hold both by year’s end. While briefing UN Security Council, UN Special Envoy for Libya Ján Kubiš 10 Sept did not express reservations on HoR’s presidential election law. HSC 19 Sept passed its own proposal for constitutional framework, envisaging bicameral legislative model, but also directly elected president. HoR 27 Sept postponed same-day session on parliamentary elections law to early Oct. Following weeks of mounting tensions between parliament and govt, HoR 21 Sept approved motion of no-confidence against govt, citing concerns over budgetary disbursements; PM Dabaiba and his cabinet to stay in power as “caretakers” with curbed access to country’s finances. Dabaiba same day rejected no-confidence vote, called on Libyans to rise up against HoR; in response, hundreds 24 Sept gathered in capital Tripoli. Meanwhile, fighting 3 Sept broke out between rival Tripoli-based armed forces in worst fighting this year. Dabaiba 7 Sept said govt forces arrested senior Islamic State (ISIS) figure Embarak al-Khazimi in operation south of Tripoli. Forces loyal to eastern strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 14 Sept launched air and ground operation against formerly allied Chadian rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in Tarbu area along Chadian border; Chadian and French forces reportedly involved in operation. Presidency Council Chair Mohamed al-Menfi 6 Sept announced release of political prisoners as part of national reconciliation effort; Saadi Qadhafi, son of former leader Muammar Qadhafi, released previous day. U.S. House of Representatives 28 Sept passed bill enabling sanctions against foreign actors in Libya.
Implementation of UN-backed peace process stalled amid tensions between rival armed coalitions and rising blockages between parliament and govt. Leader of Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 9 Aug ordered raft of appointments and promotions of senior military officials under his command; move came two days after Presidency Council (supreme armed forces commander as per UN-brokered political transition roadmap) cautioned against unilateral decisions to nominate or promote military officials. 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) – comprising military officers loyal to now dissolved UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) and others affiliated with ALAF – 14 Aug called on Govt of National Unity (GNU) to suspend military agreements with all countries, said it had agreed on measures for “urgent removal of foreign forces and mercenaries”; GNA-aligned political and military figures accused JMC of overstepping its authority. UN 26 Aug welcomed creation of joint security force comprising members of rival coalitions to secure key water pipeline; joint force 29 Aug reportedly prevented sabotage attempt by gunmen affiliated with former Qadhafi-era official. Meanwhile, delegates of UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 11 Aug failed to reach consensus on legal framework to hold elections in Dec, and House of Representatives (HoR) mid-Aug said it is drafting bill for direct presidential election. Amid repeated govt failure to obtain HoR approval of 2021 state budget, Oil and Gas Minister Mohamed Oun 16 Aug warned budget stalemate put oil production at risk. After HoR speaker 25 Aug demanded that PM Dabaiba appear before chamber to be questioned about govt’s performance or face no-confidence vote, Dabaiba 27 Aug accused HoR of obstructing govt and hindering elections, said body’s reasons for delaying budget approval were “unrealistic and flimsy”. Military prosecutor’s office 5 Aug issued arrest warrant for Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, over alleged ties to Russian security personnel suspected of war crimes in Libya in 2019; move came days after Saif Qadhafi revealed ambitions for political comeback in interview with U.S. newspaper The New York Times. Islamic State (ISIS) 23 Aug claimed responsibility for previous day car bomb attack against ALAF checkpoint in Zella area (south).
Transition remained at standstill with all political and economic tracks of peace process deadlocked; authorities reopened strategic road linking west and east. In Geneva city (Switzerland), delegates of UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 28 June-2 July failed to forge agreement on legal framework to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in Dec; political factions remained at loggerheads over electoral roadmap and which type of ballot to hold. Renewed attempts by House of Representatives (HoR) to approve 2021 state budget proposed by govt of national unity 6 and 13 July failed; main stumbling block related to funding for Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar-aligned forces; Economic Working Group comprising UN, U.S., EU and Egyptian representatives 26 July urged Libyan govt and parliament to “find realistic compromise solutions” on budget. Appointment of new Central Bank governor remained in stalemate, with HoR and rival Tripoli-based High Council of State disagreeing on appointment process. UN Special Envoy for Libya Ján Kubiš 8 July submitted final report of international audit of Central Bank’s rival branches, launched in 2018, to Presidency Council and heads of Central Bank’s branches; auditors reportedly said Central Bank’s division complicates access to foreign exchange, impedes monetary reform, and undermines integrity and oversight of commercial banks, and recommended steps toward its reunification. Kubiš 15 July told UN Security Council Libya’s banking system “will likely collapse” if country’s two central bank branches do not unify, also said stalled political talks could unravel Oct 2020 ceasefire agreement. HoR Speaker Aghela Saleh 27 July warned Libya would return to “square one” and new rival govt could emerge in east if polls were delayed. PM Dabaiba 30 July said strategic Misrata-Sirte road linking west and east had reopened in line with Oct 2020 ceasefire provisions. Rival militias 22-23 July reportedly clashed in capital Tripoli, leaving seven dead including three civilians; Mohamed Kani, leader of Haftar-aligned al-Kani militia accused of having killed over 100 people in and around Tarhuna city in 2020, killed 27 July in Benghazi city reportedly while resisting arrest by another Haftar-aligned unit.
Tensions between rival armed coalitions rose and Islamic State staged first attack in a year; at Berlin conference, Libyan govt and foreign states renewed calls for elections in Dec and foreign forces withdrawal. Forces loyal to now dissolved UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) 5 June held military ceremony in Misrata city (west) to mark first anniversary of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s defeat in capital Tripoli; Haftar’s Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) held their own military parade in Benghazi city (east) late May to mark seventh anniversary of launch of their “Dignity Operation”. High-level Turkish delegation 12 June visited Tripoli and condemned parade by “putschist Haftar”, prompting pro-ALAF MPs to denounce violation of Libyan sovereignty and triggering brawl in House of Representatives 14 June. Following months-long delay, PM Dabaiba 20 June said strategic road linking Misrata to Sirte city (centre) had reopened in line with Oct 2020 ceasefire provisions, which ALAF same day denied; 5+5 Joint Military Commission – comprising military officers loyal to GNA and others affiliated with ALAF – next day postponed reopening. In first Islamic State (ISIS) attack since May 2020, suicide bombing 6 June and explosive device 14 June killed six ALAF-aligned fighters in Sebha area (south). ALAF 17 June said it had launched counter-terrorism operation in south west and 19 June closed Essen border crossing with Algeria, prompting Presidency Council to same day ban military movements unless approved. Unidentified gunmen 3 June abducted NGO Libyan Red Crescent official Mansour al-Maghrabi in Ajdabiya city (east). At international conference co-sponsored by UN in Germany’s capital Berlin, new interim national unity govt and foreign stakeholders 23 June renewed calls to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in Dec in line with UN roadmap, and for “all foreign forces and mercenaries” to withdraw “without delay” despite reservations from Turkey, whose forces are deployed in Libya. Ahead of 1 July deadline set by UN to clarify electoral roadmap and enact necessary legislation for Dec elections, delegates of UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 28 June-1 July met in Switzerland in bid to break deadlock in negotiations.
Implementation of Oct 2020 ceasefire provisions and discussions on electoral roadmap and budget remained largely stalled. UN Sec-Gen Guterres 14 April said there had been “no reduction of foreign fighters” since Oct 2020 ceasefire, reiterated calls for their withdrawal and for all parties to stop violating arms embargo, also said defensive positions reportedly being set up in centre along ceasefire line between forces loyal to now dissolved UN-backed Govt of National Accord and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF). UN Special Envoy for Libya Ján Kubiš 21 May said efforts to reopen strategic road linking Misrata city (west) to Sirte city (centre), gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals, had stalled. Amid continued disagreement over electoral roadmap, France, Germany, Italy, UK and U.S. 6 May jointly called on Libyan authorities to facilitate 24 Dec elections and agree on constitutional and legal basis for elections by July. Delegates of UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 26-27 May failed to reach consensus on which elections should be held; Kubiš referred matter back to House of Representatives (HoR) and High Council of State. HoR 24 May discussed amended state’s budget proposed by Govt of National Unity (GNU), approved salaries and subsidies sections, but rejected operational and development expenditures. Meanwhile, Presidency Council 7 May appointed Hussein al-Aeb as new intelligence chief, prompting Tripoli-based armed groups allied to former intelligence chief Imad Tarabulsi to reportedly storm Council’s headquarters in capital Tripoli. HoR members 24 May also protested Aeb’s appointment, which they had not been consulted over in violation of UN roadmap. Haftar 29 May organised military parade in Benghazi city (east), which High Council of State same day condemned. UK 13 May imposed asset freezes and travel bans on ALAF-aligned al-Kani militia and its two leaders over alleged abuses. International Criminal Court 17 May said it had collected evidence of “serious crimes” in detention facilities, including torture and sexual violence, and urged GNU to investigate. Following sudden surge in migrant departures for Europe early May, GNU late May said EU, Italy and Malta had agreed to help secure Libya’s southern border.
Discussions on roadmap for elections planned late this year and budget stalled amid disagreement between different constituencies. Legal Committee of UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 7-9 April failed to reach consensus on legal roadmap for general elections scheduled for Dec; disagreements persisted over whether Libya should hold referendum on draft constitution first, or opt directly for parliamentary election or both parliamentary and presidential elections. Budget discussions turned into tug of war between institutions. Eastern-based House of Representatives 19 April rejected PM Dabaiba’s govt budget, reportedly making its approval conditional on Central Bank’s governor’s replacement, which eastern constituencies have long requested; National Oil Corporation same day said it was forced to declare force majeure – lifted 26 April – at key export terminal due to Central Bank’s reported refusal to release budget funds, accused latter of politicising oil sector. Dabaiba 25 April cancelled next day’s cabinet meeting in Benghazi city (east) after security officers aligned with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) barred Dabaiba’s security escort from entering city over presence of Tripoli-based militias in its ranks; ALAF 27 April clarified it had no issue with Dabaiba visiting if coordinated with local security forces. New mass graves in and around Tarhuna city (west), former stronghold of ALAF-aligned militia, continued to be uncovered throughout month; Dabaiba early April pledged to deliver justice. NGO Amnesty International 26 April said east-based military courts had convicted hundreds of civilians perceived to be ALAF critics or opponents – including 22 sentenced to death – in “sham, torture-tainted trials” between 2018 and 2021. UN Security Council 16 April unanimously approved deployment, “when conditions allow”, of UN team to Sirte city to monitor Oct 2020 ceasefire. Presidency Council Chairperson Mohamed al-Menfi 21 April ordered armed forces to secure southern border with Chad immediately after Haftar-aligned Chadian rebel group Front for Change and Concord based in southern Libya 11 April crossed border into Chad in bid to depose Chadian President Déby (see Chad).
Unified govt, first in over seven years, received vote of confidence and assumed power in major step forward for peace process. PM-designate Dabaiba 4 March submitted cabinet line-up proposal to House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aghela Saleh notably featuring two deputy PM positions for eastern and southern Libya. Following two-day parliamentary debate in strategic city of Sirte (centre) and closed-door negotiations which led Dabaiba to replace ten cabinet picks, HoR 10 March approved his Govt of National Unity (GNU) with close to all of 132 lawmakers present voting in favour, drawing international commendation; GNU tasked with leading country to general elections scheduled for Dec. GNU 15 March took oath before HoR in Tobruk city (east). UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) PM Serraj in Tripoli 16 March and east-based PM Abdullah al-Thani in Benghazi city 23 March officially handed over power to GNU. Meanwhile, UN 3 March deployed advance team to assess possible UN support to Oct 2020 ceasefire. UN Security Council 12 March urged all parties to fully implement ceasefire agreement, called for withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries. UN expert panel report 16 March said arms embargo imposed in 2011 remained “totally ineffective”. Amid rumours that Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries had begun withdrawing, FM Najla al-Mangoush 25 March called for “immediate departure” of all foreign mercenaries following meeting with French, German and Italian counterparts in Tripoli. Unidentified gunmen 24 March killed Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) senior commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli – wanted by International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2016-2018 – in Benghazi. PM Dabaiba 19 March ordered investigation after over a dozen bodies found in mass grave in Benghazi previous day. Authorities throughout month also discovered new mass graves in and around Tarhuna city (west), former stronghold of ALAF-aligned al-Kani militia, on whose leaders EU 22 March imposed sanctions for alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Tarhuna between 2015 and 2020. ALAF 14 March announced arrest of prominent Islamic State figure Mohamed Miloud Mohamed, aka Abu Omar in Ubari city (south).
In unexpected breakthrough, participants to UN-led political talks elected new political leadership; implementation of Oct 2020 ceasefire however still on hold. UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 5 Feb elected heads of unified transitional govt to lead country to general elections scheduled for Dec 2021; winning ticket secured 39 votes of 74, with Abdelhamid Dabaiba, a businessman with ties to former Qadhafi regime, elected PM-designate, Mohamed al-Menfi (representing east) chosen as Presidency Council president-designate, and Musa al-Koni (south) and Abdullah al-Lafi (west) elected Presidency Council VP-designates; vote of confidence in House of Representatives (HoR), currently scheduled on 8 March, needed for new leadership and upcoming cabinet to officially replace Libya’s two rival govts. Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA) immediately welcomed breakthrough and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, leader of east-based Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), 6 Feb said he was ready to work with new leadership. UN Security Council 9 Feb welcomed “important milestone in Libyan political process”. In east, in bid to foster unity ahead of vote of confidence, al-Menfi 11 Feb met dozens of tribal elders, academics and activists in Benghazi city, next day met mayor of Tobruk city and pledged to unify all state institutions. Dabaiba 25 Feb delayed submitting list of cabinet members to HoR for approval. AFP 28 Feb leaked UN report alleging at least three delegates had received bribes to vote for Dabaiba in 5 Feb election. Meanwhile, UN Security Council 4 Feb called on Sec-Gen Guterres to deploy advance team to monitor implementation of Oct 2020 ceasefire, and UN Special Envoy for Libya Ján Kubiš 19 Feb met with Haftar in Benghazi city to discuss ceasefire implementation. Unclaimed mortar attack during tenth anniversary celebrations of Libyan uprising 17 Feb killed one child in Sabha city in south. GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha 21 Feb claimed he was target of assassination attempt after gunmen same day opened fire on his motorcade outside capital Tripoli; one person killed and two arrested.
Participants to UN-led political talks agreed on mechanism for choosing transitional govt, while implementation of Oct 2020 ceasefire continued to falter. In apparent breakthrough, UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) 19 Jan agreed on hybrid mechanism to choose transitional three-member Presidency Council and PM to lead country to elections scheduled for Dec 2021; LPDF members to elect PM with 70% of votes, and simultaneously to be divided into three regions to elect with 70% of votes their representative on Presidency Council; votes scheduled for Feb; back-up list-based system to kick in if abovementioned voting procedure fails. Meanwhile, Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA) and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) continued to accuse each other of pursuing military build-up in violation of ceasefire signed in Oct, and missed 23 Jan deadline to ensure departure from Libya of all foreign fighters. ALAF 13 Jan accused Turkey of continuing to send military equipment to GNA, and media including U.S.-based TV channel CNN 22 Jan alleged ALAF-allied Russian military contractors had recently dug 70km trench fortification from Sirte city to Jufra airbase to prevent possible GNA military offensive in central and eastern Libya. New U.S. administration 28 Jan called on all external parties, including Turkey and Russia, to immediately cease military operations in Libya and withdraw their forces; United Arab Emirates next day said it was ready to cooperate with UN and U.S. to find “diplomatic and political solutions” to conflict. Central Bank of Libya early Jan introduced new unified exchange rate, devaluing Libyan dinar by 300% in attempt to alleviate faltering economy; move prompted major spike in price of basic food commodities, with bread and oil prices rising by 30% by mid-Jan. Rival finance ministers 12 Jan met to discuss unification of 2021 national budgets. UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres 18 Jan appointed former Slovakian FM Ján Kubiš as new UN envoy to Libya; Kubiš due to take office in early Feb. UN Security Council mid-Jan also extended sine die mandate of UN Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams to allow her to continue political dialogue efforts.
Implementation of Oct ceasefire agreement continued to falter, while political dialogue aimed at unifying country’s divided institutions stalled. Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA) 7 Dec accused Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) of mobilising in south in attempt to take over military base in desert town of Obari; ALAF same day denied claim and instead accused Tripoli of having dispatched “militias, weapons and military equipment toward front lines west of Sirte and Jufra” towns in centre; GNA in following weeks continued to alert foreign partners to suspected ALAF military build-up in south. Meanwhile, ALAF naval forces 7 Dec intercepted Turkish cargo vessel near port city of Derna in east, prompting Turkey’s FM to warn that “targeting Turkish interests in Libya will have grave consequences”; ALAF 9 Dec accused Turkey of “undermining Libyan sovereignty and its resources” by “dispatching military equipment” and “transporting mercenaries and foreign fighters to fight” alongside GNA forces. Turkish parliament 22 Dec extended Ankara’s direct military support to GNA, including deployment of Turkish troops, for another 18 months. In letter to UN Security Council, UN Sec-Gen Guterres 29 Dec proposed to set up international monitoring group to support ceasefire. Meanwhile, political talks stalled. UN Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams 15 Dec said Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) failed to agree on mechanism to choose transitional govt to lead country to elections in Dec 2021 despite six online meetings since face-to-face talks in Tunisia in Nov. UN however moved forward with election preparations and 21 Dec established Legal Committee, consisting of 18 LPDF members, tasked with drafting proposals on legal framework for elections. UN Security Council 15 Dec approved Guterres’s proposal to appoint Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov as UN special envoy for Libya; UN 22 Dec however said Mladenov had declined position due to “personal and family reasons”. Meeting of Central Bank of Libya’s board of directors held 16 Dec for first time in five years; participants agreed to devaluate Libyan dinar and fixed official exchange rate of 4.48lyd/$, with aim to unify Libya’s exchange rate system.
Ceasefire agreement faced implementation obstacles, while political talks made slow progress. 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) – comprising military officers loyal to UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) and others affiliated with Field Marshal Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) – 2-4 Nov met in western Ghadames city, for first time inside Libya, to establish subcommittees to follow-up on Oct ceasefire agreement; 10 Nov met again in central city of Sirte, agreed that JMC’s headquarters would be based there. In following days, subcommittees started to discuss reform of Petroleum Facilities Guards, military unit tasked with protecting oil facilities that both GNA and Haftar’s forces have rival chains of command over. Military forces from both sides, however, remained positioned on front lines and foreign military equipment continued to arrive to rival factions, in defiance of ceasefire. Acting UN Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams 19 Nov said GNA forces remained stationed at Abu Grein and al-Washkah localities, with patrolling activities reportedly taking place there, while ALAF continued to set up fortifications and military outposts between Sirte and al-Jufra towns, and around al-Jufra airbase; Williams same day said military cargo flights were recently monitored at al-Watiya and Misrata airports, under GNA control, while intense cargo aircraft activity was monitored between Benina airport, al-Jufra and al-Gardabiya airbases under ALAF control. In Tunisia, UN-backed political negotiations 9-15 Nov produced noncommittal roadmap to presidential and parliamentary elections to be held 24 Dec 2021; document sets general principles guiding transition period and states that Libyan institutions have 60 days to agree on legal framework for elections. Delegates late Nov resumed consultations online, no substantial progress reported. Feud late Nov erupted between Central Bank of Libya (CBL) on one hand, and GNA and National Oil Corporation (NOC) on the other, over latters’ 22 Nov decision to withhold oil revenues in transit account and stop them from accruing to CBL; move is backed by U.S. and UN, but CBL argues it is illegal and could hinder public sector payments.
Warring parties signed countrywide ceasefire agreement and resumed political talks under UN auspices, while oil production continued to increase. Representatives of UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) 23 Oct signed countrywide “permanent ceasefire” agreement, following UN-led talks in Geneva. Both sides agreed to stop hostilities across country, withdraw respective forces from front lines, expel foreign mercenaries and freeze foreign military training programs in Libya until new govt is formed. UN late Oct relaunched Libyan Political Dialogue; talks between 75 delegates representing rival camps, Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS) and Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HOR), and other delegates handpicked by UN took place virtually 26 Oct; in-person meetings scheduled to start 9 Nov in Tunisia; discussions focus on formation of unified cabinet with view to reaching comprehensive political settlement. GNA 30 Oct announced PM Serraj, who last month said he would hand over duties by end of Oct, will stay in office until new govt is formed “to avoid a political vacuum”. Earlier in month, foreign actors hosted meetings between rival camps. Morocco 2-6 Oct convened delegations from rival assemblies to discuss appointment of heads of national institutions including Central Bank of Libya; delegations agreed to appoint either institutions’ chairman or deputy on basis of regional quotas. Egypt 11-13 Oct hosted HCS-HOR talks on constitutional roadmap. Meanwhile, tensions around central city of Sirte early to mid-Oct remained high as both sides reportedly continued to amass equipment and forces in spite of Aug local ceasefire; GNA early month accused Haftar’s camp of violating ceasefire by allegedly launching rockets against GNA positions, which Haftar denied. In attempt to pressure Russian military to withdraw from Libya, EU 15 Oct imposed travel ban and economic sanctions on Kremlin insider Yevgeny Prigozhin. Following Sept deal to lift months-long oil sector blockade, National Oil Corporation progressively lifted force majeure on export terminals and major oil fields, and oil production late-Oct reached 500,000 barrels per day. IMF data in Oct showed Libya’s GDP is expected to shrink by 66% this year and prices to increase by 22%.
Oil exports resumed after rival camps brokered deal to lift months-long oil sector blockade, and rival PMs pledged to step down amid protests. East-based strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 18 Sept agreed to lift eight-month oil sector blockade and allow resumption of oil sales; move followed weeks of intense diplomatic efforts and meeting between Haftar’s camp and west-based UN-backed PM Serraj’s Deputy Ahmed Meitig in Russia mid-Sept. Central Bank and officials in Tripoli late Sept distanced themselves from deal on grounds that Meitig made too many financial concessions to Haftar camp, but oil exports resumed 26 Sept. Ceasefires declared by rival east-based House of Representatives’ head Aguila Saleh and Serraj in Aug mostly held, despite Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) shelling UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) forces’ headquarters west of strategic city of Sirte 1 Sept. Heads of rival assemblies, Saleh and Tripoli-based High State Council’s Khaled Mishri 6-10 Sept met in Morocco and agreed to start consultations on appointment of five top institutional posts, including Central Bank governor; leaders also agreed to appoint members of their institutions to participate in UN-mediated talks scheduled to restart in Oct, with aim to reach agreement on new unified govt to guide country toward general elections within 18 months. Protests against corruption and worsening living conditions subsided in west but continued in east. Protesters 13 Sept set fire to govt headquarters in Benghazi city and attacked police station in al-Marj town, prompting police to fire live ammunition, leaving one dead and several wounded. Amid unrest and in alleged attempt to pressure representatives of various factions to agree on new unity govt, rival PMs announced their intention to step down. East-based PM Abdullah al-Thani 14 Sept tendered his resignation to Saleh, who left him in caretaker capacity until lawmakers review his resignation. Serraj 16 Sept said UN-brokered talks have led to “new preparatory phase” to unify institutions and announced his intention to resign by end of Oct. Two militias loyal to GNA 24 Sept clashed in Tripoli suburb of Tajoura, leaving at least three killed and several wounded.
Head of Tripoli-based UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) PM Serraj announced unilateral ceasefire amid intensifying diplomatic efforts to revive political negotiations, while rival authorities faced series of protests. Germany and U.S. intensified their efforts to find way out of stalemate in oil-rich central Libya, which GNA-allied forces backed by Turkey have been seeking to take back from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) in recent months. U.S. President Trump 13 Aug discussed with Turkish President Erdoğan creation of demilitarised zone around Sirte city and nearby Jufra airbase and reopening of Haftar-controlled oil sites. During visit to Libya, German FM Heiko Maas 17 Aug met with Serraj and reiterated calls for demilitarisation of central Libya. Haftar’s spokesperson 19 Aug said ALAF won’t retreat from Sirte and leave city to “invaders”. Serraj 21 Aug announced unilateral ceasefire, called for resumption of oil production and export through Libya’s National Oil Corporation and for presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2021. Haftar’s ally, Tobruk-based House of Representatives Speaker Aghela Saleh, same day expressed support for truce and elections, and proposed Sirte as new capital for Libya. Haftar’s spokesperson 23 Aug dismissed ceasefire, said GNA is planning Turkish-backed offensive on Sirte. Oil and gas export blockade imposed by ALAF remained in force, but Haftar-aligned Petroleum Facilities Guard 19 Aug announced partial lifting of blockade in Marsa al-Brega oil export terminal solely for export of locally stored oil barrels, citing shortage of gas in local power stations. Protests 23 Aug erupted in capital Tripoli and other western cities over deteriorating living conditions and bad governance, and continued in following days; armed men fired live ammunition to disperse protesters in Tripoli wounding several, and abducted at least six. Serraj 29 Aug dismissed Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha allegedly over his handling of protests and subsequently announced plan to reshuffle cabinet. In Sirte, protests late-Aug erupted against Haftar forces and in support of former Qadhafi regime; ALAF forces cracked down on protestors reportedly killing one and arresting over 50.
Turkish-backed forces loyal to UN-recognised Govt of National Accord (GNA) prepared offensive in Libya’s centre, while Egypt took preparatory steps toward direct military intervention, raising risk of conflict escalation in Aug. In west, unknown aircraft 5 July launched airstrikes on Wutiya airbase, reportedly destroying air defence systems following Turkish deployment of military equipment there. In centre, GNA-allied forces continued to prepare for offensive to capture Sirte city, gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals, and nearby Jufra airbase from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF); column of about 200 vehicles reportedly moved eastward from Misrata city 18 July. Citing threat to national security, Egypt army 9 July held major exercise near Libyan border and Egyptian parliament 20 July authorised troop deployment abroad “in defence of national security” against “criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements”. UN Security Council special session on Libya 9 July highlighted international schisms: France fulminated against Turkey’s “aggressive” posture as destabilising factor; Turkey called for international community to end support for ALAF; Germany and U.S. supported demilitarisation of central Libya, but Russia did not; U.S. slammed Russia for deployment of mercenaries, which Russia denied. UN acting envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams late July warned of “huge risk” of miscalculation around Sirte triggering direct confrontation between rival foreign powers. Diplomatic efforts redoubled to secure agreement on reopening of oil fields and export terminals that Haftar-led forces and allied local tribesmen shut down in Jan. U.S., UN and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) early July proposed draft agreement holding guarantees that oil revenue would not accrue in contested Tripoli Central Bank but in NOC-controlled bank account for 120 days, to allow for concrete steps to address Haftar’s demands to replace Central Bank top management. NOC 10 July lifted force majeure on oil sites and ordered resumption of oil exports, but agreement unravelled within 24 hours with Haftar rejecting NOC’s temporary holding of oil revenues and reiterating call for audit of Central Bank under UN supervision. UN 27 July announced launch of Central Bank audit.
Tides turned in battle for capital Tripoli and front line shifted eastward around strategic city of Sirte, raising risk of escalation there in coming weeks, while political negotiations remained stalled. Forces loyal to UN-recognised Govt of National Accord (GNA) 5 June reclaimed control of capital Tripoli and took Tarhuna, last outpost of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) in west, reportedly after ALAF and Russian military aides pulled out without fighting. GNA 11 June reported discovery of several mass graves in Tarhuna. GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha 7 June signalled intention to continue military offensive eastward to capture strategic city of Sirte and nearby Jufra airbase, which serves as ALAF’s operations base. ALAF and its foreign backers 12-13 June repelled GNA offensive on Sirte; airstrikes killed over 40 GNA fighters and 19 civilians. Egypt President Sisi 20 June threatened military intervention in Libya over “red line” of Sirte. Turkey tried to strike deal with Russia over Sirte, but Russia’s foreign and defence ministers 14 June postponed visit to Turkey in last-minute move. Meanwhile, attempts at restarting negotiations failed. UN mission, which remains weakened by absence of special representative, held separate consultations on ceasefire with GNA and ALAF delegations throughout month. Sisi 6 June proposed roadmap for political negotiations, which was welcomed by allied states but rejected by GNA and Turkey. After National Oil Corporation and local guards 6-7 June agreed to restart oil production at Sharara and El-Feel oil fields in south, armed Haftar-allied military commanders 8 June ordered employees to halt production. UN Human Rights Council 22 June ordered fact-finding mission in Libya to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law since early 2016.