Libyan talks in Tangier revive hopes of unified parliament

The two days of talks in the northern port city of Tangier bring together 13 representatives each from Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR) and Supreme State Council, according to participants.
Tuesday 01/12/2020
Representatives of Libya's rival administration sit after they attend a meeting, in the coastal Moroccan town of Temara, on October 6, 2020. (AFP)
Representatives of Libya's rival administration sit after they attend a meeting, in the coastal Moroccan town of Temara, on October 6, 2020. (AFP)

TANGIER, MOROCCO--Rivals from war-torn Libya started a new round of talk in Morocco on Monday as part of stepped-up efforts to bring an end to a decade of conflict.

The two days of talks in the northern port city of Tangier bring together 13 representatives each from Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR) and Supreme State Council, according to participants.

Mohammed Raied, a HoR member based in the western city of Misrata, said the Tangier talks aimed to “deal with pending questions such as sovereign appointments” to key posts.

Last week, also in Tangier, more than 120 Libyan deputies pledged to “end the divisions” in their country, starting by convening the elected parliament as soon as they return home.

Libyan sources told The Arab Weekly that optimism prevailed in the consultative meetings in Tangier, which dealt out a “strong political dose of oxygen” to revive and activate the role of the Libyan Parliament, at a time when the Tunis Forum for Libyan Political Dialogue, in its virtual sessions, was mired with obstacles that prevented the selection of who will assume senior executive positions in the country.

According to the same sources, the Libyan parliamentarians participating in the consultative meetings, whose work is expected to end on Saturday, have agreed on a package of understandings that will restore the spirit of parliament so that it performs its full role away from ideological divisions, regional fragmentations and political disagreements.

“Understanding and consensus prevailed in these meetings, with a compromise on the need to dispel all differences so as to overcome the obstacles that prevented the unification of parliament and end the state of division,” said Libyan MP Jibril Ouhaida, in a phone call with The Arab Weekly from Tangier, where he is participating in the consultations.

He considered that what was reached during these meetings is much deeper than a mere “dose of oxygen” to break the stalemate, because the draft final statement, which is expected to be issued on Saturday, will confirm an end to political division and unify institutions, in a way that reorganises and rearranges priorities in order to meet the requirements of the next phase, through consensus and away from rivalries.

“The representatives participating in these meetings will move to the Libyan city of Ghadames on Monday, to hold a general parliamentary session in the presence of the majority of parliament members. They are hoping to implement what was agreed to during the Tangier meetings and the conclusions of the 13+13 parliamentary committee that will meet on Sunday in Morocco,” Ouhaida said.

The Tangiers meetings, which started last Tuesday, have been extended to Saturday, to continue consultations at the level of the four committees that were formed earlier, including the drafting committee, another to amend the internal regulations, and a third to formulate understandings to prepare for the next phase.

Ouhaida revealed to The Arab Weekly that the final draft of the statement includes an agreement that the city of Benghazi will be the constitutional seat of parliament. He said that the date for the general elections was confirmed on December 24, 202.

The Tangier talks come after a UN-sponsored political dialogue forum in Tunis in mid-November where participants agreed to the date for elections but not on who will lead the transition.

Ouhaida pointed out that the draft final statement also states the importance of restoring parliament to its constitutional function of supervision, rejecting all attempts to marginalise its role as well as foreign and domestic plans aimed at imposing an alternative body under various headings, including what has come to be described as “filling in political vacuums.”

The concerns about attempts to create an alternative body emerged during the Tunis Forum for Libyan Political Dialogue, with fears that the main goal of holding the forum in the presence of 75 Libyan personalities was to create an alternative body for the Libyan parliament.

These concerns were echoed among the majority of the Libyan parliament members in the east and west of the country, as some of them did not hesitate to accuse to the acting head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya Stephanie Williams of standing behind attempts to create an alternative body.

Amid the flurry of speculation, Libyan representative Muhammad al-Abani lashed at Williams, describing her alleged plans as a “flagrant violation of the will of the Libyans.”

He said in a Tweet that Williams was working to “install herself as the guardian of a country that is not under guardianship,” noting that parliament “is the only legitimate authority elected by all Libyans, and can turn the tables on the UN support mission.

Abani called at the same time for an end to what he called “a farce and an abuse of the Libyan will.”

He addressed a message to his fellow parliamentarians, saying, “What are you waiting for as the support mission is trying to replace you with unelected forces, with a bunch of those who does not care about Libya but remain involved in upholding corruption and the plunder of public funds?”

“Your people, who chose you to be their representatives, urge you to put an end to what is happening, or announce the dissolution of the House of Representatives,” he added.

The acute situation reflects the depth of parliamentarians’ concerns about the results of the Libyan Direct Political Dialogue Forum sponsored by the United Nations, which ended last Wednesday when its second round took place via video conference without reaching consensus on the mechanisms for selecting members of the unified executive authority to manage the pre-election phase.

Williams’ warnings, in which she indicated that “the situation in Libya is still fragile and dangerous,” and her reminders to participants in the forum of “the urgent need to move forward in the political process”, did not succeed in dispelling differences over mechanisms to select members of the executive authority.

These differences keep the general situation in Libya uncertain, with many potential surprises likely to upend expectations and alter the balance of power.

Libya has been mired in violence since the 2011 fall of longtime ruler Muammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising, with an array of armed groups and two administrations vying for power.

The UN-recognised Government of National Accord dominates Tripoli and the west, while an eastern administration is backed by part of the HoR, elected in 2014 — along with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The HoR is deeply divided, with sessions taking place in parallel in the east and west.

Following a year-long but ultimately abortive attempt by Haftar to seize Tripoli, the two sides signed a formal truce deal in October, pumping new life into UN-led efforts for a political solution to the conflict.