UN mission in Libya 'to hold further peace talks'

UN mission in Libya 'to hold further peace talks'
The talks have international backing and could bring together rival Libyan governments.
4 min read
The UN is pushing for peace as the battle for Benghazi rages on [AFP]
The United Nations mission to Libya said on Wednesday that there would be a fresh round of talks between the country's warring factions in a bid to end months of violence and political deadlock.

More than three years after former leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a Nato-backed revolt, the country is awash with weapons, with powerful militias backing rival governments and parliaments, and fierce clashes continuing in the country's second city, Benghazi, and west of the capital, Tripoli.

Sources close to the General National Congress [GNC] reported that the new round of talks would start in Ghadames, a remote oasis town in the south close to the Algerian border, on 9 December.
   What's going on in Libya?

The General National Congress was the Islamist-led elected body ruling Libya for two years following Gaddafi's ousting and death. After its 18-month deadline to form a new constitution passed in January 2014, the body resolved to extend its mandate.

General Khalifa Haftar, a senior figure in the forces that toppled Gaddafi, called on the GNC to disband. In May, Haftar led troops against Islamist militias in Benghazi and the GNC in Tripoli in an offensive named Operation Dignity.

Amid the chaos, an election was held to form the House of Representatives, which took power from the GNC in August. With rival militias ruling Libya's streets, the election turnout was just 18 percent. Islamist militias then launched Operation Libya Dawn to fight Haftar's troops.

With the lack of security in the capital, the House of Representatives hired a Greek car ferry harboured in the eastern city of Tobruk as a temporary legislature.

In late August, a group of GNC members reconvened in Tripoli and claimed legislative authority over the country, effectively replacing the House of Representatives as Libya's parliament. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives remains the internationally recognised government, though its actual authority on the ground in Libya is limited.

Libya's Supreme Court, based in Islamist-held Tripoli, ruled in November that the formation of the House of Representatives was unconstitutional, legally dissolving the Tobruk-based legislature and nullifying its decisions.

The Tobruk-based parliament refused to accept the court's ruling, saying it was made "at gunpoint".

Libya remains torn between the rival parliaments and the heavily armed militias that support each. Allegiances between the militias change frequently, which only adds to the instability, violence and danger faced by ordinary Libyan citizens.

Previous attempts at UN-brokered talks in June were unsuccessful. However, on Wednesday, the UN mission insisted a breakthrough was still possible.

"There is agreement among the various Libyan actors that the way forward is to hold an inclusive political dialogue to tackle the crisis with a view to end the fighting and alleviate the suffering of the civilian population," the UN statement read.

This round has reportedly been dubbed "Ghadames 2", and aims to resolve the dispute between factions supporting the GNC and opposing factions supporting the internationally recognised parliament, known as the House of Representatives, based in Tobruk.

The announcement of the latest round of talks comes as the United States and the European Union issued a statement that expressed grave concern over the deteriorating situation in Libya.

There are varying accounts of who will be attending the scheduled discussions in Ghadames. One source indicated 12 members of the GNC would be invited, along with 12 members of the dissolved assembly and four members from as yet undisclosed municipal councils.

Another source said eight members of the Tobruk assembly would be invited, and eight members of the GNC would be invited - including four opposed to the supreme court's ruling the Tobruk assembly unconstitutional. The 16 would be joined by four members of municipal councils.

The head of the GNC, Nouri Abu Sahmain, was reportedly still refusing to take part in talks unless the UN mission recognised the supreme court's ruling, which may mean the talks go ahead without him.

Meetings are beieved to be ongoing between several factions that may lead to representation for the leaders of the pro-GNC Operation Libya Dawn and the pro-Tobruk Operation Dignity in the Ghadames talks. 

A prominent field commander in Libya Dawn is, however, reportedly refusing to take part in any peace talks, which may indicate a split in the military leadership of the group.