Fighting intensifies in Libya as peace talks stall

Fighting intensifies in Libya as peace talks stall
Members of Tripoli-based Islamist government call on UN envoy to resign amid breakdown of talks with rival Tobruk-based parliament.
3 min read
07 May, 2015
Libya Dawn forces are engaged with Tobruk loyalists 65km west of Tripoli [AFP]

Fighting between Libya's warring factions has intensified as UN-sponsored peace talks between Libya's two parliaments stalled and pressure mounted on the UN's envoy to resign.

The conflict between the internationally recognised House of Representatives in Tobruk, and the Tripoli-based General National Congress, started in August 2014 that followed months of disagreements between Islamist and nationalist-liberal politicians.

UN proposals

Proposals made by Bernardino Leon, the UN envoy to Libya, to end the fighting continue to be rejected by the Islamist-dominated Tripoli bloc.

On Wednesday, 60 members of the Tripoli bloc signed a letter demanding its withdrawal from peace talks unless Leon was sacked as head of the UN mission.

The main issue of contention is that the proposals would give sole legislative authority to Tobruk.

This does not take into account that fact that the Tripoli's supreme court dissolved the Tobruk parliament last November.

Forces loyal to Khalifah Haftar, an general in opposition to the Tripoli Islamists, appear to have been emboldened by the failure of the talks.

While Haftar is officially the supreme commander of forces loyal to the Tobruk government, in practice his men act under their own authority.

They previously showed their contempt for dialogue with Tripoli by bombing Mitiga airport near the capital while mebers of the Tripoli parliament were waiting board a plane to Morocco to attend peace talks.

Haftar's forces control most of eastern Libya and their main strongholds are in al-Baydah and Tobruk.

However the port of Darnah, which lies halfway between these two cities, is controlled by Islamist fighters.

The Islamic State group has a presence in Darnah but most of the fighters in the city belong to the Darnah Mujahideen Shura Counci. Today they issued a condemnation of their extremist rivals.

     Haftar's forces warned any ships approaching Darnah's port will be considered 'legitimate targets'.

On the offensive

Haftar's forces appear to be preparing for a full-scale assault on the city.

An airstrike on Darnah killed a child and injured two people on Tuesday, according to local sources.

Yesterday, Libya's al-Wasat news portal reported that a commander of the Haftar-led forces were on the western edge of Darnah.

As further air raids look likely, Colonel Saad Aqoub told Darnah's citizens to leave the city immediately.

Haftar's forces warned any ships approaching Darnah's port would be considered "legitimate targets".

In western Libya, a plane belonging to Libya Dawn, allied to Tripoli, was shot down yesterday over Zintan, a city controlled by forces loyal to Tobruk.

On the same day, the Libyan Tribes' Army militia group, which is allied to Haftar, shelled the city of al-Zawiya.

In an apparent attempt to appease Tripoli, Leon yesterday told al-Jazeera that the international community should back the Libya Dawn militias in their fight against the Islamic State group.

He also said that both Tobruk and Tripoli need to make "painful concessions" in order to achieve peace.

However, the escalating conflict in Libya and Tripoli's loss of faith in Leon makes the prospect of a political solution look less likely.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.