Progress towards credible elections in Libya is impossible without an agreement between the key political players, the UN’s top envoy to the north African country said on Thursday.

They must put aside self-interest, negotiate in good faith and reach an agreement on a unified government, while also ensuring national polls go ahead to avoid it from “sliding into disintegration”, Abdoulaye Bathily told ambassadors in the Security Council.

I call on their sense of moral duty to negotiate and reach a compromise to restore the dignity of their motherland,” he said.

“Reluctance to do so calls into question not only their commitment to the elections, but to the unity and future of their country for which they should be held accountable.”

Prolonged impasse

Libya has remained mired in deep crisis since the postponement of national elections, originally planned for December 2021.

Adding to the complexities is the reality of two rival administrations, with the internationally recognized Government of National Unity (GNU) based in Tripoli and the Government of National Stability (GNS) in the east.

In November 2023, in an attempt to break the stalemate, Special Representative Bathily invited the leaders of the five key existing institutions to talks – the Government of National Unity, the House of Representatives (HoR), the High Council of State (HSC), the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Presidency Council.

“I continued my engagement with those major players, appealing to their wisdom,” he said, adding however, that none have budged from their initial positions.

“Each continuing to articulate pre-conditions for their participation in the dialogue as a way to maintain the status quo, which – I must say – seems to suit them,” Mr. Bathily said.

Pre-conditions for talks

The HoR Speaker, Agila Saleh, maintains that the main issue remains the formation of a unified government and that his participation would be contingent on either both governments being involved or excluded entirely, Mr. Bathily said.

The HSC President, Mohamed Takala, stands by his rejection of the electoral laws as published by the HoR and is calling for the discussion to focus on reviving the “initial” version of the text.

The GNU Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, insists that he will only step down after the holding of elections, meaning that the GNU will supervise the coming electoral process.

Khalifa Haftar, the Commander of the LNA, insists that both GNU and the GNS be part of the talks or both be excluded.

The President of the Presidential Council (PC), Mohamed al-Menfi, “does not want to be seen as a party, but is prepared to act as facilitator to support my initiative”, Special Representative Bathily told ambassadors.

Abdoulaye Bathily (on screen), Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the country.

Security Council’s ‘critical role’

Mr. Bathily reiterated the UN’s readiness to consider proposals that could lead to a solution based on a peaceful and inclusive settlement.

He highlighted that the Security Council and the international community have a “critical role” to play in pressuring Libyan leaders to engage constructively.

“Alignment and support from regional partners are particularly important,” he said.

“Parallel initiatives can only be useful if they support the UN efforts lest they be used by Libyan actors as a means to perpetuate the status quo.”

Security, humanitarian situation

The Special Representative and head of UNSMIL also briefed ambassadors on the humanitarian and human rights situation in Libya, noting the continuing plight of migrants and asylum seekers and an increase in refugees from Sudan.

On the security front, hundreds of Chadian mercenaries and foreign fighters reportedly returned from Libya to Chad, however, security in southern Libya remains alarming due to the crises in Sudan and the vast Sahel region.

The “fragile security” in the capital, Tripoli, also remains under threat with security actors trying to achieve “territorial control” over strategic areas, where military bases and State institutions are located, Mr. Bathily said.


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