Libya can once again see two rival administrations and a return to instability, the UN political chief warned on Wednesday and called for elections to be held as soon as possible to unite the war-torn country.
Deputy Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN Security Council that she was encouraged by the support for a UN initiative to convene a joint committee of Libya’s rival House of Representatives and senior ministers with the aim of reaching an agreement on both “on a constitutional basis that would lead to elections this year. ”
The crisis erupted after Libya failed to hold its first presidential election on December 24 during a UN-led reconciliation effort.
The country’s East-based House of Representatives appointed a new prime minister, former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, to lead a new interim government in February. Legislators claimed that the mandate of the caretaker Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who is based in the capital, Tripoli, expired when the election failed.
But Dbeibah insists he will remain prime minister until elections are held, and the High State Council, which advises the interim government, called parliament’s decision to name a new prime minister “wrong” before the election.
He announced plans for elections this summer when he rejected the East-based parliament’s bid to oust him, as he reiterated his promise to resign only after a national vote, despite the East-based parliament appointing former Interior Minister Bashagha.
DiCarlo said that on March 3, the UN Special Adviser to Libya, Stephanie Williams, had asked the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Prime Minister to appoint six members to the Joint Committee, and both responded positively. She said the council nominated its representatives on Tuesday and that the UN expects the House of Representatives to do the same in the coming days.
Separately, DiCarlo said, Williams has offered to mediate between Dbeibah and Bashagha “to overcome the current political dead end.”
Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi. For several years, it has been divided between rival administrations in the East and the West, each with the support of a number of militias and foreign governments.
In April 2019, the East-based putschist General Khalifa Haftar and his forces, with the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched an offensive to conquer Tripoli. Haftar’s campaign collapsed after Turkey and Qatar increased their military support to the UN-recognized government.
Mediated by Williams, then acting UN envoy, an agreement on a ceasefire from October 2020 led to the formation of a transitional government with Dbeibah as prime minister and planned elections until December 24, which have now been postponed.
DiCarlo warned that the continuing conflict over “executive legitimacy” could once again lead to two parallel administrations, “instability and possibly unrest, and strike a blow at the prospects for elections.”
She said there had been a “worrying development” since March 1, when the House of Representatives held a confidence vote on Bashagha’s new government. The vote was marred by “procedural shortcomings and threats of violence against certain members of the House and their families”, according to reports received by the UN
DiCarlo pointed to the continued halting of airlines’ flights between cities in the east and Tripoli and “forces in western Libya that support both sides moving on March 9-10 towards the capital.” She said Williams engaged both sides “and managed to reduce tensions.”
But the UN political chief warned that “Libya is now facing a new phase of political polarization, which risks splitting its institutions again and reversing the gains made over the past two years.”
“We remain convinced that credible, transparent and inclusive elections based on a sound constitutional and legal framework are the only solution to the current stalemate,” she said.
The United States and Britain strongly supported Williams’ efforts to promote dialogue between the feuding parties leading to elections, but Russia did not.
US Deputy Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said that the United States strongly urges the House of Representatives and the Prime Minister to participate in the UN-supported dialogue.
“Free and fair elections are the only path to stability and prosperity for the Libyan people, and we have an obligation to support the Libyan people’s desire for elections,” he told the Council.
Britain’s Deputy Ambassador James Kariuki also called on those on both sides to accept Williams’ offer and “set aside narrow interests and commit seriously to addressing the underlying conditions that prevented the election from taking place in December last year.”
He said the 2.8 million Libyans who registered to vote had made their ambitions clear and that “all actors, internal and external, should refrain from any movement that could undermine stability or deepen the divisions in Libya and threaten to undermine the difficult progress. achieved recently. two years. “
But Russia’s Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said: “We respect the Libyans’ desire to solve their domestic problems themselves.”
“It is from this point of view that we perceive the Libyan House of Representatives’ approval of a new composition of the government led by Prime Minister Bashagha,” he told the Council. “This is an important step towards overcoming the protracted crisis.”
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