The latest session of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum led by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) ended without reaching a consensus.
In the meeting held via videoconference, the main focus was to reach an agreement on the election mechanism of executive authority in the war-torn country. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Abdulqadir Huwaili, a member of Libya’s High Council of State and participant in the forum, said that the U.N. mission conducted a vote to assess the participants’ perspective on the idea of changing the threshold to adopt any proposal in the forum.
The forum needs at least 75% of participants’ votes to adopt a proposal. The vote was a nonbinding, unofficial preliminary attempt, Huwaili said. While 52% of participants attended the vote, 65% of them favored the planned changes in the threshold.
In official voting held on Dec. 4 on proposals to determine the chair of the presidential council, its vice-chairs and prime minister could not be adopted after none of them reached the necessary 75% of participants’ votes. This led the UNSMIL to decrease the necessary threshold for a way forward in the political talks.
The forum is part of a push to end almost a decade of violence in the North African country. The 75 participants have agreed to hold elections on Dec. 24, 2021, but remain divided on who will lead the political transition toward the polls.
In the Libyan conflict, forces loyal to the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and those of its rival, putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, formally agreed on a cease-fire in October. After a failed offensive on Tripoli launched by Haftar in April 2019, the two sides have returned to negotiations.
While Haftar has been mainly supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Russia, Turkey and Qatar have been the main backers of the GNA.
Already after a first in-person session held in the Tunisian capital last month, the legitimacy of the delegates was questioned by allegedly underrepresented groups. Libyan organizations have since called for an investigation into corruption allegations linked to the selection process of future leadership. U.N. experts have been tasked with looking into any such cases.
The appointment of heads of strategic institutions such as the central bank and the National Oil Corp. is also proving divisive, while the Libyan parliament has failed to convene for two years.
More than 120 deputies pledged at talks in Morocco in late November to convene parliament as soon as they return in Ghadames, a desert oasis considered a neutral venue, but questions have since arisen over the choice of location.
Russian spies released
Amid the ongoing political talks for a permanent solution in the country, two Russians who detained in Libya on espionage charges in 2019 were released by the GNA Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Zakharova said the Russian side is "satisfied" with the decision of the Libyan authorities to free Maxim Shugalei and Samir Seifan, and thanked everyone who assisted in their release.
According to media reports, Shugalei and Seifan have already left Libya and are expected to arrive in Moscow soon. They were arrested in Tripoli in May 2019 on espionage charges.
The Russian government had argued that these people were academic researchers affiliated with a think tank. But the GNA announced that the two Russian citizens were intelligence agents who were conducting field research associated with the Wagner private military company.
Authorities in the Tripoli government have charged that the Wagner Group has deployed hundreds of fighters to back Haftar forces.
The Libyan security service found a memory stick confirming Shugalei and Seifan were conspiring with Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Libya's former leader Moammar Gadhafi, to bring him to power in the county.