World Powers Persuade Libyan Factions to Form New Government

  • Kerry co-chairs Rome conference as rival parliaments take part
  • International community to tackle IS threat, Gentiloni says

Libya Supplies Put Pressure on Declining Oil Market

World powers said they persuaded some of Libya’s feuding factions to form a government of national unity and pledged to act against Islamic State, which has spread to part of the North African country after years of deepening turmoil.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who co-chaired a peace conference in Rome on Sunday, told reporters after the talks that the expansion of Islamic State in Libya had made the country “dangerous for everyone” and that Libyan representatives at the conference had pledged to sign a U.N.-brokered deal for a government of national unity on Wednesday.

John Kerry shakes hands with Paolo Gentiloni

Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Calling the deal “the only legitimate basis for a solution” to the Libyan crisis, Kerry said that “those who disrupt a deal will pay a price for their actions.”

Foreign ministers and senior officials from the five permanent United Nations Security Council members, as well as European and regional players, took an early step in forging a road-map for a way out of the civil war triggered by the fall and slaying of ex-leader Muammar Qaddafi four years ago.

Steinmeier’s Caution

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was at the conference, cautioned afterward that the Libyans taking part represented only about two-thirds of the country’s various power factions.

“We still haven’t completely reached the goal of bringing peace to Libya with our efforts,” Steinmeier said in a statement.

Mattia Toaldo, a Middle East policy expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London, said after the conference that “the big question mark is whether the two parliaments as a whole will go along” with the deal.

“Problems still remain, including whether the new government will sit in Tripoli,” Toaldo said in a telephone interview. “Wanting to sit in Tripoli doesn’t mean they will, and as far as we know there is no agreement to provide security for a new government there.”

IS Presence

“We cannot allow the status quo in Libya to continue. It is dangerous for the viability of Libya, it is dangerous for Libyans, and now because of the increased presence of Daesh purposely fighting in there it is dangerous for everyone,” Kerry said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Powers at the conference pledged to meet a new Libyan government “rapidly” and study its requests for help in stabilizing the country. “We refuse to stand by and watch a vacuum being filled by terrorists,” Kerry said, describing Libya as a “a country of six million people which is not even capable of pumping the oil that is there.”

Kerry said the deal was for a government of national unity to be set up within 40 days of the agreement being signed. A final statement by participants, released by the Italian Foreign Ministry, urged all parties to agree to an immediate cease fire.

“We express our determination, working together with the Government of National Accord, to defeat ISIL affiliates in Libya and eliminate the threat they pose to Libyan and international security,” the statement said, using another acronym for IS.

International Action

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who co-chaired the gathering with Kerry, said the international community will tackle the threat of Islamic State in Libya “in the next months.” He described the convergence among the 17 participating countries, and other participants, as “perhaps unprecedented” and said the Rome talks could turn out to be “a turning point for Libya.”

At the Italian Foreign Ministry, ministers and senior officials from across the globe sat down with representatives of the two rival parliaments -- the General National Congress, based in Tripoli, and the internationally-recognized House of Representatives based in Tobruk in eastern Libya. The two chambers each claim to be the nation’s legitimate authority.

Among those who traveled to Rome were Gennady Gatilov, Russian deputy foreign minister, Martin Kobler, UN envoy on Libya, and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Ministers and officials from regional players including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey also attended along with a representative from China.

Even if Wednesday’s signing goes ahead, stability and security will be a long way away, according to Alison Pargeter, North Africa analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, who called Libya “a living hell” and “a state-less state.”

“Libya still has no democratic or political culture, so hoping that a solution can come out of its supposed institutions is optimistic,” Pargeter told an earlier Rome conference on Mediterranean crises on Friday. “The most important tribes are still completely on the sidelines of the peace process and refusing to become involved. They need to become engaged and made to feel they have a role to play.”

”Even if the UN-brokered deal is signed, some of the parties on the ground will try to sabotage it,” Pargeter said. “It seems that the international community is so desperate to get this deal signed, it is not thinking how it will be enforced from a security aspect.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.