WED 19 - 6 - 2019
Date: Jun 1, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Libyan leaders take positive, fragile steps
Agence France Presse
TRIPOLI: The gathering of Libyan leaders in Paris this week marked a positive step for the violence-wracked country, but analysts warn the absence of key players could make the optimism short-lived. The Tuesday meeting hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron brought together four leaders representing most – but notably not all – of Libya’s rival factions.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the U.N.-backed unity government in Tripoli, was at the table along with military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose rival Libyan National Army dominates the country’s east.

Also present were Aguila Saleh Issa, the Parliament speaker based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and Khalid al-Mishri, the newly elected head of the High Council of State.

The leaders dispute each other’s legitimacy and are entwined with numerous militias who are known to switch their allegiances.

Despite their obvious differences, the four leaders agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on Dec. 10 and vowed to respect the results.

They also said they would work toward phasing out parallel institutions and unifying the Libyan central bank.

In a sign of the fragility of such promises, the Libyans verbally agreed on the proposals rather than formally signing a text.

Rachid Khechana, director of the Mediterranean Centre for Libyan Studies, said a signature on paper does not necessary mean action.

“Even if the declaration had been signed, we know how many [Libyan] politicians, in particular MPs, have failed to uphold their commitment,” he said, citing a 2015 Libya deal agreed in Morocco which numerous signatories did not implement.

Khechana highlighted the absence in Paris of “groups and networks of great influence, including the tribal chiefs and the armed groups.”

In western Libya, “some of these groups are more influential than the government,” he added, in reference to the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord.

Federica Saini Fasanotti, from the Brookings Institution in Washington, agreed “the solution in Libya is strictly connected to the armed groups.”

As long as the international community continues to negotiate with political leaders “who are not fully recognized on the ground ... the situation in Libya won’t be solved,” she said.

The International Crisis Group drew on the absence of a delegation from the city of Misrata, home to the most powerful armed groups in western Libya.

GNA deputy premier Ahmed Maiteeq, who represents Misrata, refused to attend the Paris meeting according to one of his advisers.

Ibrahim Ben Rjab, a senior military figure in the Misrata militia, told AFP the city had boycotted the meeting in protest at the presence of Haftar whom they accuse of wanting to establish a dictatorship.

While there are “some positive points” to come out of Paris, he said the agreement has no official status and “ultimately is not worth anything because it hasn’t been signed.”

Fathi Bashagha, a Misrata lawmaker, said that “the outcome of the Paris meeting is good,” but the pledges “remain words and wishes on paper, in the absence of a clear mechanism for applying them.”

Analysts remain skeptical Libya will go to the polls in December, despite leaders in Paris agreeing to adopt the necessary laws by Sept 16.

“The legal framework for holding elections remains opaque,” Human Rights Watch said.

Staging elections is “unrealistic from a strictly technical perspective,” Crisis Group said.

“Neither the legal nor the constitutional framework is in place – hurdles that may prove impossible to overcome within a short timeframe,” the organization added.

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