Saied discusses preparations for Libya talks with UN envoy

“What we want to see in terms of participation is people who are not there for their own political aspirations, but for their country,” Williams said after meeting with Saied.
Tuesday 13/10/2020
Tunisian President Kais Saied meets with UN Envoy Stephanie Williams in Carthage, October 13. (AFP)
Tunisian President Kais Saied meets with UN Envoy Stephanie Williams in Carthage, October 13. (AFP)

TUNIS – Tunisian President Kais Saied and acting UN Special Representative of the UN secretary-general for Libya Stephanie Williams discussed Monday preparations for the first face-to-face meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to be held in Tunisia early November.

During the meeting, which was held at Carthage Palace, Williams briefed the Tunisian president on the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya held in January 2020.

She also presented him with an overview of UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL’s) preparations for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.

The upcoming November forum represents, according to Williams, “a real opportunity to achieve a breakthrough in the Libyan political process.”

The North African country is dominated by armed groups, riven by local conflicts and divided between two bitterly opposed administrations: a United Nations-recognised unity government based in Tripoli and its eastern-based rival.

The resumption of talks on the Libyan conflict at an Intra-Libyan Political Dialogue Forum was one of the recommendations of the Berlin process.

Virtual preparatory meetings will begin on October 26, after which face-to-face meetings will be held in early November in Tunisia.

“What we want to see in terms of participation is people who are not there for their own political aspirations, but for their country,” Williams said after meeting Saied.

“The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum scheduled to take place in Tunisia will discuss the necessary preparations for holding, as soon as possible, Libyan presidential and parliamentary elections and establishing an executive branch capable of serving the Libyan people,” she added.

Asked whether commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar or unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj would be present, she said participants would be able to take part on the condition “that they remove themselves from consideration in high government positions.”

This included membership of the key Presidential Council, the prime minister’s job and ministerial posts, she said.

The talks are intended to prepare for national elections, she added.

Williams noted that one of the recommendations received by UNSMIL following consultations with several groups of the Libyan society, is that current leaders will not run in the next elections, in reference to both Sarraj and Haftar).

This will be a condition for the resumption of the intra-Libyan dialogue, she said.

Williams also said UNSMIL will work from October 19 to facilitate talks between the two sides in the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, expressing hope that the talks will conclude with a permanent ceasefire in the country.

She added that all conditions “are now conducive to advancing the intra-Libyan dialogue,” thanks to previous talks, including those held in Egypt and Morocco last September.

She pointed to the sincere commitment of Libyan stakeholders to achieving national reconciliation.

The intra-Libyan dialogue is an opportunity not to be missed, Williams stressed, calling on the international community to honour its commitments to “respect Libya’s sovereignty and to support, by all possible means, this dialogue.”

The Tunisian president, for his part, said “Tunisia is ready to mobilise all the human and material resources necessary to contribute to the success of the Libya Political Dialogue Forum.”

He also reiterated Tunisia’s position on the Libyan crisis that is aimed at finding an intra-Libyan political settlement based on a comprehensive approach that preserves the unity and sovereignty of the country, far from any foreign interference.

“Tunisia is not in competition with anyone; the objective is to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis in this brotherly country,” he said.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi called for “a dialogue between Libyans that could lead to a political solution to the crisis.”

Earlier on Monday, Saied spoke with his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmajid Tebboune, who saluted the renewed dialogue session and said that Algeria, another neighbour of Libya, was “always at Tunisia’s side.”

Tebboune also spoke of a visit to Tunisia after the November 1 referendum on constitutional reform in Algeria.

The Algerian president’s office confirmed that the two leaders had spoken via telephone.

“The President of the Republic, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, received a telephone call on the part of his counterpart Kais Saied, and they reviewed bilateral relations and his planned visit to Tunisia,” it said in a statement.

Tebboune “welcomed Tunisia’s organisation of inter-Libyan dialogue under the auspices of the UN,” the statement said.

A previous agreement between rival Libyan sides, signed in Morocco in 2015, created a unity government that has never been recognised by Haftar.

In April 2019, the LNA launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli, but was pushed back by Turkey-backed forces and militias loyal to the GNA after over a year of fighting.

Since the LNA forces were driven from western Libya, the rival sides have resumed talks on specific themes: institutions, the military and political affairs.