Libya talks in jeopardy as Islamists reject UN proposal

Libya talks in jeopardy as Islamists reject UN proposal
3 min read
30 April, 2015
Libya Dawn-backed government in Tripoli says latest UN plan would give power to rival administration in Tobruk and make its military forces the "national army".
Libya is divided between two rival governments [AFP]

Discussions to end the conflict in Libya reached crisis point after the publication of a draft declaration by Bernardino Leon, the head of the UN's support mission in Libya. 

Talks are taking place in the Moroccan city of Skhirat under the mission's sponsorship, and aim to establish a national unity government.

Libya is split between two rival governments that formed in August 2014: the internationally recognised government sitting in Tobruk, and the rival Islamist-dominated government sitting in Tripoli.

     Publication of the proposal has seriously damaged the UN's credibility as an impartial broker in the Libyan conflict.

Leon's proposal calls for the results of the May 2014 parliamentary elections that brought the Tobruk government to power to be respected. It says this will be the only authority in Libya for a period of up to two years.

The original proposals presented at the talks had called for the Tripoli and Tobruk governments to share authority.

Muhammad Shuaib, the head of the Tobruk delegation, said his government would take responsibility for appointing a new national unity government.

On Tuesday 28 April, the Tripoli government rejected Leon's proposal, describing it as a "return to point zero" for dialogue. Omar Humaidan, Tripoli's official spokesman, said it "refuses to consider the draft proposal because it is not based on a comprehensive, balanced solution to the conflict".

The following day Muhammad Ima'zab, sitting in Tripoli, told Libya's al-Wasat news that his government would send a written objection to the UN.

On their Facebook page the Libya Dawn militias described Leon as a "deceitful conspirator" and said his plan allowed the Tobruk government to stay in power after its term ends in October.

The militias said the plan would also recognise the forces of Khalifa Haftar, who support Tobruk, as Libya's national army.

On Wednesday, Leon backed down by saying the proposal was "a work in progress". However, its publication seriously damaged the UN's credibility as an impartial broker in the Libyan conflict.

The conflict in Libya was exacerbated in May 2014 after Khalifah, who served under former leader Muammar Gaddafi, launched a large scale ground and air offensive against militias in Benghazi called Operation Dignity.

The same month parliamentary elections took place, but the turnout was only 18 percent. The newly elected government of the "House of Representatives" was kicked out of Tripoli by Libya Dawn militias, and fled to Tobruk.

However, it did not formally assume authority from its predecessor, the General National Congress, which continues to sit in Tripoli under the protection of Libya Dawn.

Tobruk is led by Abdullah al-Thinni and has international recognition. Last month, Haftar was appointed commander of its armed forces.

In November 2014, Libya's supreme court, under the direction of those sitting in Tripoli, dissolved the Tobruk government, but it refused to recognise the ruling.

In January, Libya Dawn and Operation Dignity forces announced a ceasefire.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.