In early 2021, Libyan politicians agreed on terms for a national unity government bringing together what had been two administrations in Tripoli and Tobruk. The accord was another step toward lasting stability following the October 2020 ceasefire between the two rival militaries. Unifying national institutions is taking time, however, and several possible pitfalls lie ahead. Through research and advocacy, Crisis Group aims to keep the national unity agreement intact and the various associated processes on track, encouraging dialogue among Libyans and vigorous engagement on the part of the UN and external powers with influence in the country.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood asks Crisis Group experts how the Ukraine war has affected peacemaking elsewhere, notably Nagorno-Karabakh, where Moscow plays a major diplomatic role, and Libya, where the Kremlin backs one of the conflict’s main protagonists.
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.
There is a need for the UN envoy to play a more proactive role in coordinating international positions and putting pressure on Libyan actors to move the situation forward...
None of the foreign actors backing the two Libyan sides want to compromise the rekindled dialogue for the sake of launching a war in Libya against the other side.
There’s a palpable fear ... that candidates [for the presidential election in Libya] that are very polarizing will contest the results either if they run or don’t run, if...
This is the first time that Libya has held presidential elections, and the powers attributed to the president in the current elections law are huge.
The Libyan parliament and the executive were not able to drive the [peace] process forward alone. This was why tensions between rival groups had increased again in recent...
There is not doubt that if [Egypt and Turkey] find a way to work together [...], this will reflect in pushing forward political stability in Libya.
In this In Black & White video, Crisis Group's Expert Claudia Gazzini explains that the only way to put Libya back on track is to maintain and strengthen a multitrack approach to Libya's problem.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined by Claudia Gazzini, Crisis Group’s Libya expert, to look at the political standoff in Libya that led to deadly clashes over the summer and whether a new UN envoy can help find a way out.
Libya is once again stuck in a standoff between two rival executives. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to host consultations among foreign ministers of countries engaged in Libya, push the UN Security Council to appoint a new special representative and encourage the opposing factions to reach agreement on a state budget.
Discord about how to resolve a political impasse has once more put Libya in danger of fracturing in two. The priorities are for the camps to agree on a way forward and for outside powers to stay united in backing whatever peaceful option Libyans choose.
Libya again has two rival administrations pressing claims to be the rightful government. Both sides have armed loyalists. Outside powers should join hands to help stop them from clashing once more.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group’s Turkey expert, Nigar Göksel, about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent trip to Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Turkey’s involvement in conflicts in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus, and its wider foreign relations.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group’s fieldwork and recent report “Libya Turns the Page”
Libyan politicians have moved with salutary speed in 2021 to reunify their divided country. With UN help, the new government should hasten to clear two last hurdles: establishing a legal framework for elections and clarity about who holds supreme command of the armed forces.
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