UN Unveils New Peace Plan for Libya to Clear Path to Elections

  • Envoy Salame outlines initiative at meeting in New York
  • Country is currently split between rival militias, governments

Members of the Libyan Special Forces, loyal to Khalifa Haftar, patrol the streets in the eastern city of Benghazi on Sept. 19, 2017.

Photographer: Abdullah Doma/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations said its road map for peace in Libya wasn’t working in its current form and unveiled plans to revamp the agreement to unify the North African country and pave the way for new elections.

Ghassan Salame, the UN’s envoy for Libya, outlined an action plan at a high-level meeting Wednesday in New York. He said the initiative would be led by Libyans to find a way out of the crisis that’s split the nation among rival militias and governments.

“Libyans want a process that they themselves own and lead,” said Salame, a veteran Lebanese politician. The Libyan Political Agreement “remains the only framework to end the Libyan crisis. The LPA is necessary but in its current state is not adequate. The first stage of the process is to amend the agreement.”

Libya descended into chaos following the NATO-led uprising in 2011 that toppled Muammar Qaddafi, with two administrations in the east and west vying for power and dozens of armed groups fighting across the country. While the UN mediated a peace deal that was meant to unite the country and lead to new elections, the government that it’s backed in Tripoli since 2016 -- led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj -- has struggled to impose its authority.

Khalifa Haftar, head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, supports a rival administration in the east and has been expanding influence with backing from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Peace efforts mediated by France, Egypt and the U.A.E. have failed to end the impasse. Diplomats say they may even have served to undermine UN efforts to encourage all sides to accept Sarraj’s government.

Unifying Measures

With Sarraj’s mandate expiring in December, Salame outlined a new plan to get peace efforts back on track.

As a first step, he said he’d convene in Tunis a committee to draft amendments to the original LPA agreement. A national conference will then be held under the auspices of the UN Secretary General to bring together Libyan groups that had felt excluded or underrepresented in earlier peace talks to select new representatives to the country’s nascent executive institutions and debate the amended political accord.

These efforts aim to resolve divisions that have put Libya’s elected House of Representatives and UN-backed government at loggerheads and encourage them to agree on a timeline and legislation for a new constitutional referendum and parliamentary and presidential elections.

Analysts and diplomats said reaching a lasting peace would not be easy in a country that’s had nine prime ministers since 2011. But few see any other way out of the impasse that’s seen militias repeatedly disrupt oil exports.

“We have to admit that Libya has reached a very advanced level of political deadlock that requires a solution and not more escalation,” said Faraj Dardour, a Tripoli-based political analyst. “Even elections need an agreement to support their results.”

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