An armed convoy attached to Libya’s parliamentary-backed Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha moved towards Tripoli on Thursday before returning when he was about to take the lead in the capital, despite the incumbent refusing to relinquish power.
Parliament swore in Bashagha as prime minister a week ago, and he said on Tuesday that he would arrive in Tripoli within two days and promised to take over the government there in peace.
An attempt to install Bashagha in the capital, however, could lead to clashes between armed factions that support him and others who support incumbent Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who says he will leave office only after an election.
Military sources said the convoy set out from Misrata but could not find a way into Tripoli without facing opposition from factions supporting the Dbeibah.
Bashagha’s office said the convoy was “a security force” that did not seek war and that it had returned to its former base in response to demands from international and regional friends.
A witness from Reuters just outside Tripoli on the main road towards Misrata said that there were military vehicles and fighter jets stationed at places along the road but the traffic was normal and there were no signs of clashes.
The US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, tweeted that he spoke with Bashagha and “praised him for his willingness to reduce tensions today and try to resolve the current political disagreement through negotiations, not by force.”
The UN embassy in Libya had expressed concern over what it called “reports on the mobilization of forces and the movement of large convoys of armed groups that have increased tensions in and around Tripoli.”
Libya has had a rare period of comparative calm since the collapse of a 14-month attack on Tripoli in the summer of 2020 by eastern forces in the civil war, which led to a UN-backed peace process.
That process included the creation of the Dbeibah’s interim government with a mandate to unite state institutions that had been divided for several years between rival governments in the East and the West, and to monitor the run – up to national elections.
However, the election process collapsed in December just before the planned vote and rival factions have been arguing about the right way forward.
Parliament, which mostly took the eastern side during the civil war, declared that the Dbeibah government had ended its term of office and announced a new transition period under Bashagha’s new government and no elections until next year. However, Dbeibah has announced plans to hold an election this summer.
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