The Libyan government rejects any attempt to place the aggressors and defenders of Tripoli on an equal footing, Libyan Defense Minister Salahaddin Namroush stated Wednesday as differences and disagreements plague the United Nations-led political process aiming to end the chaos in the oil-rich North African nation.
“We support every dialogue aimed at lasting peace in Libya and for its people to enjoy security and safety, but at the same time we reject any attempt to make the aggressors and defenders of Tripoli equal,” Namroush wrote on Twitter, adding that any political settlements not based on renouncing violence, condemning aggression, reparation for harm and holding perpetrators accountable, remain fragile.
Forces loyal to the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and its rival, putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, formally agreed on a cease-fire in October. The deal included the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya within three months, after Haftar's failed offensive on the capital launched in April 2019.
Following the cease-fire deal, rival sides agreed to work on a mechanism to choose a transitional government that would lead the conflict-stricken country to national elections next year.
However, the GNA frequently voiced that it would not accept Haftar having a role in a future political agreement, underlining that he is a war criminal that attacked the capital and led to the death of hundreds of people. Mass graves were also found in regions previously controlled by the warlord which is evidence of war crimes perpetrated by Haftar's forces.
“Our country is moving towards a stage of stability, and the upcoming elections will be its most prominent pillar, and we must be ready for war in support of the real peace track,” Namroush added, saying the GNA will work to create conditions for the success of the elections.
Libya’s rivals failed to agree on a mechanism to choose a transitional government that would lead to elections in December next year, the United Nations said Tuesday.
U.N. acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams told an online meeting for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) that she would form an advisory committee to help bridge the gaps among the participants and “make concrete progress.”
Though the 75-member forum reached an agreement to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, 2021, it failed to break the deadlock on the selection mechanism for the executive authority despite six online meetings since their face-to-face talks in Tunisia in November, Williams said.
“So far you collectively continue to struggle to agree on a way forward,” she told the attendees. “The clock is ticking, and we have a collective responsibility before the Libyan people to advance this process so as to fulfill a key objective of the road map, which is enabling and making a reality, the holding of the elections.”
Williams said she would announce the legal committee to work on constitutional arrangements for the elections. The committee is expected to convene Monday, before its face-to-face meeting next month, she said.
These talks took place amid a heavy international push to reach a peaceful settlement to Libya’s conflict. Previous diplomatic initiatives have all collapsed.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday approved a proposal by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov as the U.N. Libya special envoy and Norwegian Tor Wennesland as the U.N. Middle East envoy, diplomats told Reuters.
Mladenov will replace Ghassan Salame, who stepped down as the U.N. Libya envoy in March due to stress, and Wennesland succeeds Mladenov, who has spent the past five years as the U.N. mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.
The appointments end months of bickering among council members sparked by a U.S. push to split the Libya role, with one person running the U.N. political mission and another focused on conflict mediation. The UNSC agreed to that proposal in September, but Russia and China abstained.
Exit of mercenaries
The UNSC also called for all mercenaries and foreign fighters to leave Libya, in a unanimous statement that included Russia, which is accused of enabling Russian contractor Wagner Group to send paramilitaries.
The Russian military contractor has long been accused of sending fighters to serve the Kremlin's interests in Syria, Libya and countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
As part of the process to lead Libya into stability, warring sides also agreed on the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya within three months in the Oct. 23 cease-fire signed in Geneva. Yet, no progress was announced on the issue of foreign forces and mercenaries since they inked the cease-fire deal almost two months ago.
All 15 UNSC members called for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya in line with the cease-fire, commitments of the participants of the Berlin conference and the relevant UNSC resolutions.
In early December, Williams said about 20,000 foreign and mercenary forces were still in Libya.
The Libyan Army on Tuesday stated that a plane carrying Syrian mercenaries landed in Benghazi to support Haftar. Abdulhadi Dirah, a spokesperson for the Libyan Army's Sirte-Jufra Joint Operations Unit, told Anadolu Agency (AA) they "received solid information of mercenaries on board a plane that belongs to (Syrian-owned) Cham Wings Airlines which arrived from Syria to Benina airport."
Dirah also questioned the role of the U.N., which is supervising the cease-fire, noting that no action has been taken against Haftar, who is mobilizing mercenaries and weapons.
Last week, the army also said that a Russian plane landed at Ghardabiya Air Base in Sirte with a shipment of weapons and ammunition for Haftar.