Libyan rivals meet in Morocco to form unity government

Libyan rivals meet in Morocco to form unity government
Libyan rival groups travelled to the Moroccan resort of Skhirat on Wednesday to renew talks on forming a unity government, amid increasing pressure from world powers.
3 min read
04 February, 2016
Fayez al-Sarraj's first cabinet line up was rejected [AFP]

Members of Libya's rival groups travelled to the Moroccan resort of Skhirat on Wednesday to renew talks on forming a unity government.

The meeting scheduled for Thursday morning comes after an initial cabinet line up headed by businessman Fayez al-Sarraj was rejected by the internationally recognised parliament in Tobruk.

Lawmakers criticised the proposed government as too large and also objected to an article in the UN-brokered accord giving the cabinet the power to approve top security and military positions.

The participants will attempt to agree on a smaller cabinet, which is a serious challenge as it complicates the task of accommodating the demands of the country's multiple political groups and militias.

Morocco's King Mohammad VI had invited the rival groups to hold their talks in a Moroccan resort on the outskirts of the capital Rabat, according to Fathi Ben-Issa, the media adviser to the unity government.

The EU on Wednesday urged Libya's factions to support a broad-based unity government or face the prospect of more chaos.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the EU hopes "Libyan decision-makers will realise that there is no alternative to a unity government."

The alternative is simply chaos, a country on the brink of economic catastrophe
- Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders

Koenders, whose country currently chairs EU meetings, told EU lawmakers that "the alternative is simply chaos, a country on the brink of economic catastrophe."

Libya has been split between two rival governments since 2014, a consequence of the chaos that engulfed the country after a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Media reports last week suggested the EU was considering sanctions against those seen as "spoiling" efforts to forge a unity government.

An asset freeze and a travel ban could be imposed on leaders of the Tripoli-based parliament and government as well as on Aguila Saleh, who heads the internationally recognised legislature according to sources within the EU.

World powers have been stepping up the pressure on Libyan rivals to reach an agreement on a unity government due to the increased threat of the Islamic State group, which has exploited the turmoil in Libya to expand its influence in the country and attack key oil facilities.

The group first appeared in the North African nation in 2014 and has since claimed responsibility for beheadings and suicide bombings.

IS has established a stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, and is reported to have at least 3,000 fighters in Libya.

Western powers including the US have also indicated the possibility of taking military action against IS in Libya, with reports suggesting the formation of a multi-national force to combat the terrorist group that is expanding close to European shores.

However, the Skhirat talks will be fraught with difficulty as less than half of the members of the rival Libyan legislatures signed up to the UN-sponsored agreement that requires the formation of a unity government.