Libya’s prime minister to resign amid peace talks
The prime minister of Libya’s internationally-recognized government said on Wednesday night that he wants to hand over power to a new administration in October, amid peace talks on ending the country’s years-long conflict.
Fayez Sarraj said the UN-brokered talks between the country’s rival factions have led to a “new preparatory phase” to unify Libyan institutions and prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.
“I announce to everyone my sincere desire to hand over my duties to the next executive authority, no later than the end of next October,” he declared in a televised speech from the capital, Tripoli.
Libya has been in a state of civil war since May 2014, when rogue east-based military commander Khalifa Haftar launched ‘Operation Dignity’ against rival militias in Benghazi.
The country has since split between an internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Sarraj in Tripoli and a rival government allied with Haftar in Tobruk, each backed by different foreign powers.
Haftar launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture Tripoli from the GNA . But the campaign collapsed in June when militias backing the GNA, with heavy Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of the capital and other western towns.
Under heavy international pressure, delegates from rivals camps met earlier this month and agreed on a preliminary deal that aims to guide the country toward elections within 18 months and demilitarize the contested city of Sirte. The city, which is controlled by Haftar, is the gateway to Libya’s major oil fields and export terminals, also held by Haftar.
Talks are expected to resume soon in Geneva.
Sarraj, who arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday after a visit to his close ally Turkey, urged negotiators to quickly name the new administration to “secure a peaceful and smooth transition.”
Last month he called for a ceasefire and the demilitarization of Sirte and Jurfa area. Aguila Saleh, speaker of the rival eastern-based House of Representatives, supported Sarraj’s proposal for demilitarizating Sirte, but he did not mention Jurfa, which includes a vital military airbase held by Haftar.
Sarraj, a 60-year-old former architect, was appointed in 2015 to lead the presidential council, created by a political agreement that was signed by Libya’s factions in Skhirat, Morocco.
That agreement, however, failed in its aim of creating a national government in Tripoli and ending the divide between the rival parliaments, governments and military coalitions in Libya, and the military conflict continued.
Wednesday’s announcement came amid protests over dire living conditions and corruption across the divided country. The demonstrations exposed a rift within the GNA and also led the a rival administration in the east to resign.
Haftar, who controls Libya’s east and south, is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and Egypt. The GNA-affiliated forces that hold the country’s west are supported by the Qatar and Turkey.