Libyans hold UN-led talks to prepare for elections

AFP/Gammarth (Tunisia)
Filed on November 9, 2020
Tunisian President Kais Saied, left, and Stephanie Williams, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission applaud as they attend the opening ceremony of the Libya's peace talks in Tunis, Tunisia, on Monday.


The 75 delegates meet in Tunisia after months of relative calm and a key ceasefire deal in October

The UN launched talks among Libyans on Monday aimed at creating a unity government and preparing for elections to bring peace after a decade of violence in the North African country.

The 75 delegates, selected by the UN to represent existing state bodies and groups from across Libya’s political and social spectrum, met in Tunisia after months of relative calm and a key ceasefire deal in October.

“You have the opportunity to end a tragic conflict,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates in a video message at the opening ceremony.

“Now it’s your turn to shape the future of your country.”

Libya has seen a decade of violence since the 2011 toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a Nato-backed uprising, with a complex web of regional conflicts exacerbated by foreign interventions.

But October’s ceasefire deal between two rival administrations in the east and west has allowed for economically vital oil production to resume and spurred progress on efforts to end years of political deadlock.

This week’s talks at a luxury hotel in Gammarth, near the Tunisian capital Tunis, aim to unify Libya under a single interim executive and pave the way for national elections.

As well as preparing for national polls, the interim executive will face the daunting challenges of providing basic services in a country wracked by economic woes and the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Millett, a former British ambassador to Libya, said the most important task of the talks was to agree a timeline for elections.

“It needs to be short, maximum nine months, with key milestones for implementing and a clear message from the international community that they will impose sanctions on anyone who obstructs it,” he said.

Libya is dominated by two rival administrations, each backed by foreign powers and a multitude of armed groups.

The UN and world leaders have welcomed the talks.

Guterres urged world powers to support peace efforts and to respect a long-standing UN arms embargo.

Tunisian President Kais Saied hailed a “historic moment” at the opening ceremony.

“We are able to overcome all difficulties and obstacles ... when there is no interference from outside powers,” he told Libya’s delegates.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking from Morocco, said there was a “positive dynamic” underway and noted some “encouraging decisions” but he urged caution, “because the past has sometimes led us to disappointment”.

The head of the European Union’s delegation to Libya, Jose Sabadell, voiced the bloc’s support for the talks.

“@EU strongly supports this meeting to agree on new unified executive governance & roadmap to elections ASAP,” he tweeted.

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