Libya's cease-fire is holding since it was reached in October, and rival parties continue talks at the negotiating table, however, the path to a permanent political solution that will end the almost decadelong civil war and bring peace to the country still hangs in the balance because of deep divisions over a transitional executive.
The United Nations has "succeeded in speeding up the rhythm of the inter-Libyan negotiations by exerting pressure on all parties, as much on the military level as the political," Miloud el-Hajj, a Libyan university professor in international relations, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Thursday.
He said this strategy has "reduced the gap between the parties in conflict and made a final settlement possible."
But since the delegates homed in on a mechanism to designate members of a new transitional government, sharp divisions within Libya's fractured political class reduced the U.N. to a "powerless observer," Hajj added.
He warned that the whole process depends on agreement on the formation of a unified executive.
"Time is not on your side," U.N. envoy Stephanie Williams told a virtual meeting of political dialogue on Wednesday. The 75 participants have agreed to hold elections on Dec. 24, 2021, but not on who will lead the political transition toward the polls.
The situation is "very difficult now because of the divisions in the institutions, and because of the epidemic of corruption and this kleptocratic class that is determined to remain in power," the envoy said.
The U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the Libyan capital Tripoli and forces loyal to its rival, eastern putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, formally agreed to a cease-fire in October. After a failed offensive on Tripoli launched by Haftar in April 2019, the two sides have returned to negotiations.
Since the civil war in Libya began in 2011 with the ouster and killing of longtime ruler Moammar Ghadafi, there has been no shortage of Western proposals to reestablish peace and stability in the country.
"I know that there are many who think that this whole dialogue is just about sharing power, but it is really about sharing responsibility for future generations," Williams said.
"This is my ask of you as we have the discussions today in going forward," she told the delegates, selected by the U.N. on geographic, political and ideological lines.
Already after a first in-person session held in the Tunisian capital last month, the legitimacy of the delegates was questioned by allegedly under-represented groups.
Libyan organizations have since called for corruption charges to be investigated linked to the selection process of future leadership.
Such "rumors over bribes to support certain candidates for the post of the prime minister" could "discredit the results (of the political dialogue) and lead to their rejection by the Libyan people," Imane Jalal, a university law professor, told AFP.
But the selection of a new executive is not the only bone of contention.
The appointment of heads of strategic institutions such as the Central Bank and the National Oil Corporation is also proving divisive, while the Libyan parliament for its part 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.