As military moves halt Libya talks, what’s next for peace?

The deadline to form a unity government on Sept. 20 has been missed

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Special U.N. representative for Libya, Bernardino Leon, has been leading an initiative to form a unity government representing the parliament in the east and the General National Congress (GNC) in the west.

The United Nations was hoping for the government to emerge on Sept. 20, with its implementation to start around Oct. 20, when the mandate of the House of Representatives (parliament) in Tobruk expires.

“Libya cannot afford to miss this opportunity,” Leon said on Sept. 4. However, Sept. 20 has passed, and it seems Libya has missed the opportunity.

The GNC condemned General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by the House of Representatives, for escalating military operations against Islamist militants in Benghazi on Sept. 20, and halted all talks toward a unity government.

The GNC was the last to join negotiations led by Leon, and is experiencing internal conflicts over what stand to take.


“The county is torn by tribal, regional and personal conflicts. The collective interest is unfortunately being overshadowed by these conflicts,” the Libyan ambassador to Qatar, Abdel Munsif Elburi, told Al Arabiya News.

Party political interests are also being prioritized over the collective interest. Leon acknowledged this in response to missing the deadline.

Some activists and politicians such as Mahmoud Shammam, information officer at the executive office of the former National Transitional Council (NTC), have expressed their unease about forming a unity government that includes the GNC, whose mandate has long expired, but say it is necessary for stability.

The national unity government is one “of emergency and not... of choice,” Shammam said.


Some doubt that a unity government would be able to end Libya’s predicament.

Former GNC deputy Abu Bakr Maddur told Al Arabiya News that such a government “would have three heads, a president and two vice presidents. It’s obvious that such a system, with three people making executive decisions, would cause a lot of confusion.”

He added: “There are also no international guarantees for national security. How could any government work in a turbulent capital occupied by armed militias?”

The United Nations handed the warring factions a final draft of a peace accord on Monday in response to the delay in reaching a deal, informing them that U.N. work ends with it.

Leon said if Libya’s warring factions reject the proposal, “they will be choosing uncertainty, choosing difficulties in working with the international community."


It is also in Europe’s interest to bring back stability to Libya. The latter is a very important commercial partner to Italy, and other European countries such as Spain and France want their businesses in Libya to resume.

Europe, especially Italy, has been suffering from an increased influx in illegal immigrants coming from Africa through Libya.

“Illegal migration from Libya could help [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] to stage attacks in Europe,” the BBC reported British MPs as saying.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, said: “The international community must be more proactive in exploring solutions to tangibly help Libya restore stability.”

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