UN envoy to pursue reported Libyan election commitments

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The new U.N. special envoy for Libya said Monday he plans to follow up on commitments by the country’s political rivals at the end of a meeting last week that reportedly include the need to hold presidential and parliamentary elections and ensuring that the divided north African country has a single executive power as soon as possible.

Abdoulaye Bathily told the U.N. Security Council he plans to talk to leaders of the east-based parliament, the House of Representatives, and west-based High Council of State in the capital Tripoli in the coming weeks “to understand” the agreements announced at the end of their Oct. 21 meeting in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

According to the Moroccan Press Agency and The North African Post, the speaker of the east-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, and the head of the Supreme Council, Khaled al-Meshri, agreed to implement a mechanism on criteria for leadership positions agreed to at talks in Morocco in October 2020.

Saleh was quoted as saying the rivals also agreed “to ensure that there is a single executive power in Libya as soon as possible” and to relaunch dialogue to achieve an agreement about the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections. The elections need to respect “a clear roadmap and legislation, on the basis of which the polls will be held,” he was quoted as saying at a press briefing after the meeting.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky referred to the Morocco talks in his statement to the Security Council, noting the “”tangible progress on the political track” at the Oct. 21 meeting. He said Saleh and Meshri “agreed to conclude efforts to unite executive structures and distribute leadership positions in them by early 2023.”

The U.N.’s Bathily, a former Senegalese minister and diplomat, said his aim is to get the rival leaders to “agree on political, constitutional, legal and security measures to advance preparations for elections as soon as possible in keeping with the aspirations clearly expressed by the Libyan people.”

Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The oil-rich North African county has for years been split between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.

The country’s current political crisis stems from the failure to hold elections in December 2021 and the refusal of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah who led a transitional government to step down. In response, the country’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, who has for months sought to install his government in Tripoli.

Bathily told the Security Council that “the political deadlock persists with no clear end in sight to the prolonged stalemate over the executive.”

“Further, efforts to resolve the remaining outstanding issues related to the constitutional basis for elections do not appear to lead to concrete action by the relevant actors, further delaying prospects for the holding of inclusive, free and fair elections aimed at ending the transition and reinstating the legitimacy of institutions.”

Russia’s Polyansky called the internal situation in Libya “alarming” and said the continuing division of the country “will lead to nothing but further destabilization of the situation.”

“Evidence of this includes increasingly frequent clashes between armed groups, mobilization activity and large-scale demonstrations by citizens,” he said.

Polyansky said: “The main objective of the U.N. Security Council at the present moment is to prevent outbreaks of violence from morphing into civil war.”

He said one way to break the current deadlock is to get Libyans to agree on a new constitution and conduct nationwide elections.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis urged the U.N. political mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL, to take the lead in pressing for agreement on a constitution, a timeline for elections, “a transparent mechanism” to allocate oil revenues, and to get all parties to commit to refrain from using force.

Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Taher Elsonni told the Security Council that the more than 3 million Libyans registered to vote “have tremendously high expectations at the end of this protracted litany of crises … to express their will.”

He applauded “the glimmers of a consensus that is beginning to emerge” including on Bathily’s appointment after a nine-month search amid increasing chaos in Libya.

Russia called the delay unacceptable and only agreed to extend UNSMIL’s mandate for only three months at a time until the Security Council agreed on a new special representative. Polyansky said with Bathily’s appointment Russia was now ready to consider a longer mandate.

Kenya’s U.N. Ambassador Martin Kimani, speaking on behalf of the three African members of the council including Gabon and Ghana who had pressed for an African U.N. special representative, also expressed concern at “the persisting political stalemate.” He said a substantive one-year mandate from the council would give Bathily and UNSMIL “the necessary stability to execute their mandate, and will demonstrate the council’s continued commitment.”

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