Libyans restart talks in Morocco, process remains precarious

The meeting in the Moroccan coastal town of Bouznika, south of the capital Rabat, brings together 13 representatives from the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, and 13 from the Tripoli-based High Council of State, which advises the GNA.
Saturday 23/01/2021
Representatives of Libya’s rival administrations attend a meeting in the coastal Moroccan town of Bouznika, south of the capital Rabat, on October 3, 2020. (AFP)
Representatives of Libya’s rival administrations attend a meeting in the coastal Moroccan town of Bouznika, south of the capital Rabat, on October 3, 2020. (AFP)

BOUZNIKA, Morocco – Representatives of rival Libyan camps on Friday began talks in Morocco as part of ongoing efforts to bring an end to nearly a decade of conflict.

Oil-rich Libya has been riven by civil war since the NATO-backed uprising that ousted long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) is based in the capital, while a House of Representatives, which does not recognise the Tripoli administration, is based in the east.

A fragile ceasefire between the two sides, agreed in Geneva last October, has largely held, despite the threat of renewed violence.

The meeting in the Moroccan coastal town of Bouznika, south of the capital Rabat, brings together 13 representatives from the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, and 13 from the Tripoli-based High Council of State, which advises the GNA.

The GNA has said the talks would centre on appointments to the country’s key institutions — already the focus of previous talks in Morocco in recent months — such as the electoral commission, the central bank and the anti-corruption commission.

Libyan envoys at UN-backed talks in Egypt agreed Wednesday to hold a constitutional referendum before elections planned for December 24.

At separate talks in Geneva earlier this week, Libyan representatives voted to pass a mechanism to choose an interim executive to govern until the December polls.

Foreign forces in the country, however, ignored a deadline to pull out as scheduled Saturday under a UN-backed ceasefire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometres (miles) dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.

An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”

“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and ceasefire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.