Libyan rivals optimistic about political process after Cairo talks

Egypt has been pushing for a political settlement in Libya and calling for a ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of militias, a halt to foreign intervention in the country and a fair distribution of wealth.
Wednesday 14/10/2020
Libyans lift placards making demands on participants in talks between the country’s two rival administrations, in front of the headquarters of the UN Mission, in the city of Janzour, west of the Libyan capital, October 14. (AFP)
Libyans lift placards making demands on participants in talks between the country’s two rival administrations, in front of the headquarters of the UN Mission, in the city of Janzour, west of the Libyan capital, October 14. (AFP)

CAIRO – Rival Libyan factions discussed in Cairo constitutional provisions ahead of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to be held early November in Tunisia.

The upcoming forum will see the first face-to-face meetings following preparatory virtual consultations.

Al Ahram, citing sources in Cairo, said Egypt will host sessions focusing on “political, economic and military/security tracks of the UN-sponsored Libyan peace process.”

Egypt’s intelligence chief General Abbas Kamel. (AFP)
Egypt’s intelligence chief General Abbas Kamel. (AFP)

The forum’s aim is “to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections in the shortest possible timeframe,” the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement.

Abbas Kamel, director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, gave the opening speech at the Cairo event, reiterating his country’s commitment to Libya’s sovereignty and unity and resolve to move forward with the UN-sponsored settlement.

He also stressed the need for a Libyan-Libyan solution to the country’s conflict.

“The time has come to realise the Libyan people’s aspirations to stability by promoting the diplomatic option so that Libya can have a constitution that establishes powers and duties and then proceeds to hold presidential and parliamentary elections,” he said.

Egypt has been pushing for a political settlement in Libya and calling for a ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of militias, a halt to foreign intervention in the country and a fair distribution of wealth.

The Cairo dialogue, attended by delegations from the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and the Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS), came two weeks after Egypt hosted Libyan peace talks in the framework of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission in Hurghada.

The Libyan rivals are expected to reach a consensus on a national referendum on a constitutional bill adopted by the Libyan Constituent Assembly in July 2017. While the HCS favours a referendum as soon as possible, the HoR still has reservations.

Ziad Daghim, who serves in the Tobruk-based parliament, says the body does not recognise the draft constitution as legitimate and that it could face numerous legal hurdles if passed, especially as the Constituent Assembly’s term is over, Al Ahram reported.

Numerous other obstacles stand in the way of potential Libyan elections and a political resolution, including how an electoral law is to be drafted while parliament is not in session, how to restore the country’s voter base after data was lost from the national election commission in 2018 and how to resolve concerns from both the HOR and HSC over identity fraud, according to Al Ahram’s report.

It pointed out that over a million national ID numbers are estimated to be fraudulent, mostly in southern Libya where there is frequent cross border infiltration between Chad and Libya. Some have expressed concern that Turkey is exploiting the problem to deploy Syrian mercenaries into the country to back GNA-aligned Islamist militias.

The Cairo meeting will host members of Libya’s Constituent Assembly tasked with putting together the new constitution who have pressed for the country to take the needed steps for a referendum.

However, some have expressed concern that the members’ status as high-level HSC officials could present a conflict of interest, Al Ahram reported.

This was not the only problem brought up by representatives of the HoR delegation, who also raised questions about the issue of dual nationality and concerns over how demographic imbalances between western, eastern and southern regions of the country would impact future election proceedings, its media report said.

But despite all the challenges, experts are confident that participants will reach an accord.

The UN-backed process puts an end to the contentious interim arrangements agreed to in Skhirat, Morocco, noted Al Ahram, including the composition of the Constituent Assembly, the Government of National Accord (GNA), the election commission as it is currently composed, the HCS and the HoR, which the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum hopes to replace with new structures.

For now the process is expected to be guided by a new Constitutional Declaration or a heavily amended version of the current document.

Once a political agreement is forged, parties should begin readying for elections within six months, as per the Montreux consultative meeting in September. The interim government would then be transferred to Sirte, considered a central, neutral location for an interim capital.

Libyan House of Representatives member Ziad Daghim. (TAW)
Libyan House of Representatives member Ziad Daghim. (TAW)

Libya has been wracked by conflict since the overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with rival power centres as well as a myriad of militias vying for control.

The two main factions are the Turkey-backed GNA in Tripoli and a parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Efforts to move the political process in Libya forward have been repeatedly interrupted since a deal was signed in Morocco in December 2015.

The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019, but was beaten back in June by the GNA with military support from Turkey.

Hope for a solution to the crisis has grown, however, after the two main warring factions separately announced in August they would cease hostilities.

The move was followed by a series of UN-backed talks in Morocco, Egypt and Switzerland.