Libya’s prime minister calls for resumption of UN-sponsored talks following fierce fighting
The head of Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) on Tuesday called for a renewal of UN-brokered talks to end conflict in the war-torn country, amid escalating military clashes in the west of Libya between GNA forces and troops loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar.
Last year, Haftar’s self-styled “Libyan National Army” launched an offensive attempting to capture Tripoli, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands more.
GNA Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj on Tuesday urged the quick resumption of UN-brokered talks to reach a comprehensive road map toward elections. The authority of his Tripoli-based government is challenged by a rival administration allied with Haftar and based in Tobruk in eastern Libya.
Sarraj’s move came two weeks after Haftar declared the UN-brokered deal that created the Tripoli-based government “a thing of the past,” and claimed a mandate to govern all of Libya.
Sarraj said the road map could include amending a landmark UN-brokered agreement to unite the country in 2015 and appoint a new government or agree on a plan for elections in the short term.
“This call comes as state institutions are increasingly divided, and some officials in these institutions have individually made decisions that exceeded their role and their authority,” he said
Sarraj was apparently referring to increasing tensions between his government and the Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya on the one hand, with an anti-graft body on the other. The bank has resisted attempts by Sarraj’s government to use the country’s foreign reserves to stave off financial catastrophe. The central bank holds the country’s oil revenues and billions of dollars in foreign reserves.
Tensions rose to the surface on Monday when the audit bureau in Tripoli announced that its administrative director was abducted by a militia tied to the Interior Ministry. The audit bureau is an independent body appointed by the Libyan parliament in Tripoli and is a rare check on the misappropriation of funds.
The audit bureau accused the Interior Ministry of “forcibly disappearing” Reda Gergab to prevent him from uncovering financial irregularities and blocking the ministry’s large and suspicious transactions.
Although the Tripoli-based government was set up by the UN and recognized by Western countries, many of its institutions, including the Interior Ministry, are in reality staffed and controlled by unruly militias.
Justifying Gergab’s detention, the Interior Ministry argued that the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic required the disbursal of urgent funds “to rescue the Libyan people” and that the government is merely “carrying out responsibilities” undermined by the anti-corruption agency.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Sarraj's message was the same message the UN has been pushing.
“In a return to the UN-supported political discussions it’s important that all the parties involved, whether Libyan or those who have influence over those parties, move in the same direction and that is towards political talks,” he said.
Sarraj’s declaration comes after a string of military victories in western Libya by GNA forces against Haftar’s troops.
On Tuesday, GNA forces attempted to take the Watiya airbase southwest of Tripoli. The base was a major hub for Haftar’s attacks on the Libyan capital and is now one of his last strongholds in western Libya.
Haftar’s self-styled “Libyan National Army” acknowledged heavy losses inflicted by GNA force , saying that an officer and 11 fighters were killed, but added that they had repelled the attack.
The GNA health ministry reported late Tuesday that indiscriminate shelling by Hifter's forces on a residential neighborhood in the capital struck a house, killing a man and his wife and critically wounding their toddler son.
Agencies contributed to this report