A stalemate within the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) and differing views on forming a government of national unity threaten the process designed to end the civil war in the country, while increased reports of forces loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar increasing their military presence in certain areas risk a return to arms.
Thirty members of the LPDF on Dec. 14 threatened to pull out from the talks, accusing the United Nations mission of "designing" positions for specific people, in reference to Aqila Saleh, the speaker of the Tobruk parliament.
The news, which risks putting the entire U.N.-sponsored political process in limbo, comes amid military maneuvers by forces of Haftar.
Proposals made by the U.N. to reduce the percentage of voting inside the forum and adopt a new quorum to pass the mechanism for selecting the executive authority have not received sufficient support so far.
The ongoing situation makes it difficult for the parties involved to reach a breakthrough in forming a government of national unity and a new presidential council.
A meeting between rival parliamentarians from Tripoli and Tobruk scheduled for Dec. 21 in the city of Ghadames, a desert oasis near Libya's borders with both Algeria and Tunisia, aimed at electing a new parliament speaker, has been canceled.
The meeting, initially scheduled to take place on Dec. 8, was allegedly postponed due to three parliament members testing positive for the coronavirus. However, observers disputed the claim, arguing it was due to political pressure by Saleh and Haftar's militia on the deputies of the eastern Cyrenaica region, out of fear the eastern region will lose.
On the other hand, lawmakers from the southern region of Fezzan hope that the speaker of parliament will be one of them since, based on power-sharing quotas, the Presidential Council should come from the eastern region and the prime minister from the western region, namely Tripoli.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in a statement Thursday congratulated the Libyans on their Independence Day and urged them to unify their efforts for national elections.
Turkey's top diplomat also marked the country's sovereignty. "I wholeheartedly congratulate the brotherly Libyan people on the Libyan national day. We will always support our Libyan brothers to ensure unity, solidarity and stability," Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday voiced Washington's support for Libya in reestablishing unity and sovereignty, noting that the cease-fire and progress made through political dialogue are positive steps toward ending conflicts.
According to the Libya Observer, Trump wrote a letter to Government of National Accord (GNA) head Fayez Sarraj on the occasion of Libyan Independence Day.
Haftar’s military buildup
Since the cease-fire was agreed upon in October, the Libyan Army has reported that Haftar's militias have made several suspicious moves near contact lines, especially in the governorates of northern Sirte and central Jufra.
Abdulhadi Dirah, a spokesperson for the Libyan Army's Sirte-Jufra Joint Operations Unit, told Anadolu Agency (AA) earlier this month that "a Russian military cargo plane landed at Qardabiya base in Sirte."
Dirah added that the army also spotted an "armed convoy containing six Tiger armored cars, 17 armed cars and two trucks loaded with ammunition that headed from Jufra to the south."
"All this mobilization is a clear indication that Haftar's militias do not want stability in Libya. Rather, they want war as a means to bring the general (Haftar) to power," Dirah noted.
On Dec. 7, Haftar's militia attacked a military camp in the southern town of Awbari, prompting Libyan Defense Minister Salahaddin Namroush to threaten to withdraw from the cease-fire agreement in the country.
"We warn the U.N. and peace-supporting countries that if they don't curb war criminal Haftar and stop his recklessness, we may withdraw from the 5+5 military agreement," Namroush said in statements cited by the media office of the government's "Volcano of Rage" operation.
"We will consider the cease-fire invalid if Haftar launches any military action," he warned.
With a stalemate in the political dialogue and suspicious military activities by forces loyal to Haftar, there is fear that war will resume as long as the political and military balance on the ground is disturbed.
Forces loyal to the U.N.-recognized GNA based in Tripoli and its rival, Haftar, formally agreed on a cease-fire in October. The deal, which was concluded after Haftar's failed offensive on the capital launched in April 2019, included the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya within three months.
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 who 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 the war crimes perpetrated by Haftar's forces.
2 more mass graves found
Libyan authorities on Wednesday found two new mass graves in the city of Tarhuna, 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of the capital Tripoli.
Abdelaziz al-Ja'fari, spokesperson for the General Authority for Research and Identification of Missing Persons, said the two graves were discovered in the Mashru'a Alrabet area of Tarhuna, a former stronghold of Haftar's forces.
However, he did not specify how many bodies were exhumed from the graves.
According to official Libyan sources, Haftar's forces and affiliated militias committed war crimes and acts of genocide between April 2019 and June 2020.
Since June, following the defeat of Haftar's forces in western Libya during their failed attempt to take over the capital, the Libyan government has found around 300 dead bodies in mass graves in Tarhuna and south of Tripoli.
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