Strategic observation

News Analysis: Experts, officials diverge on effectiveness of Paris meeting in ending Libya's political crisis

2018-05-30 18:08:29 (Beijing Time)


TRIPOLI, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Experts and officials hold diverge views on the Paris meeting that gathered the Libyan parties on solutions to the political crisis, as some considered it an opportunity while others expressed pessimism.

"We have reached a stage where we need resolute international political intervention to pressure the Libyan parties to stop dodging and wasting time," parliament member Mohamed Abdullah told Xinhua, mentioning previous failure in implementing the 2015 political agreement signed in Morocco's Skhirat, which aimed to unify rival governments.

Abdullah called the meeting a "great opportunity" for the Libyan actors to overcome the dispute towards new elections, ending the threats to the country from home and abroad.

He also stressed that the opportunity is vital as the country is politically divided and economically suffering, with terrorism still poses a threat despite its losses in Sirte and Benghazi.

The Paris meeting on Libya held Tuesday brings the opponents together in a bid to end the political division and unite Libya's sovereign institutions after years of conflict between Libya's east and west.

The meeting was also attended by the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the League of Arab States, as well as more than 20 representatives of Arab and foreign countries, in an attempt to rally wide international support around it.

Disagreeing with Abdullah, parliament member Mosbah Wahida described the Paris meeting as "an attempt to abort the political agreement to serve specific interests."

Wahida said the meeting called for "imposition of guardianship," adding that the final communique called on the UN Mission in Libya to determine the election date, terms and conditions, as if the mission is "the ruler in Libya."

"We should be the ones to decide what we want without dictates. We do not need an agreement of another kind that violates the agreement of Skhirat, which might further confuse the already confused scene," Wahida told Xinhua.

The parliament member stressed that "the parties should have activated the UN-sponsored political agreement, which includes the executive authority, unification of the sovereign institutions, adoption of a constitution, on which the elections are based, and the transition to a permanent phase."

In the meeting's final communique, the UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, head of the Libyan High Council of State Khalid al-Meshri, the eastern-based Parliament Speaker Agila Saleh and the eastern-based army commander Khalifa Haftar pledged "to work constructively with the UN to hold credible and peaceful elections and to respect election results."

The rival Libyan factions also agreed to hold "credible" presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 10.

The final communique also stipulated that all parties must accept the results of the elections and provide security needs to protect the elections process.

Italy has expressed alarm and lack of support for the Paris meeting. Giuseppe Perrone, the Italian ambassador to Libya, tweeted one day before the meeting that "disagreements and unorganized initiatives will contribute to the return of death boats (illegal immigrant flows to Europe)."

The Italian ambassador added that "the goal is not to increase commitments, but to implement what has been committed to on Libya," referring to the unimplemented UN-sponsored 2015 political agreement that the international community has supported.

"A lasting solution to the Libyan crisis must come out of Libyans themselves. Holding parliamentary and presidential elections requires internal steps for the Libyans to take, while engaging in a true, inclusive dialogue at societal level," Perrone tweeted.

The political agreement signed by the Libyan parties in December 2015 in Morocco faces serious obstacles in implementation of its provisions due to differences between the parties.

In a briefing before the UN Security Council last week, UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame stressed that it is time to focus on holding the elections rather than amendment of the agreement.

Salame's call was considered by many to be a clear declaration by the international community to abandon the stalled political agreement and an attempt to quickly move towards international initiatives and support that would push the Libyan parties to hold elections directly.

"The French initiative is a golden opportunity for all Libyan parties to confirm their sense of responsibility and willingness to make concessions to reach a consensus that will bring back the political momentum and bring the crisis in the country to an end," said former Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim al-Debashi.

As for the difficulties facing the initiative, the Libyan diplomat believes "there is no doubt that its success is not easy."

He said firstly, the initiative combines the army's commander with the head of the Libyan State Council, who do not recognize each other despite the great difference between them in terms of legitimacy and influence.

Secondly, he said it is "not easy for Italy to accept an active French role in the Libyan issue, because the (Italian) colonial mentality sees Libya as its main area of influence. It is still nestled in the minds of the politicians of Rome. It is not excluded that Italy and Britain would work with the Libyan party that prefers to thwart the initiative."

Head of the Libyan High Council of State Khalid al-Meshri said on Saturday that Khalifa Haftar, the eastern-based army commander, should not be included in the meeting on Libya as he is "not a party of the political agreement."

However, Haftar did take part in Tuesday's meeting and was one of the most important military parties involved.

Meshri and Haftar have major differences, as Meshri is a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, which is conducting ongoing defamation campaigns against Haftar's army, accusing him on numerous occasions of trying to restore military rule to Libya and overthrow the country's civil order.

"The success of France in bringing together the Libyan parties is an important step towards breaking the stalemate. Therefore, it is a positive attempt to impose international pressure on all parties that the time has come to end the division in Libya," Ali Sweih, member of the High Council of State, told Xinhua.

"We are waiting for the French initiative to be presented to us in a formal session, so that it can be reviewed, discussed, and voted on," he added.

The four Libyan leaders who participated in the Paris meeting did not sign an agreement to accept the initiative, waiting for returning to Libya and holding consultation with their respective institutions.

They will then set a date for signing the agreement regarding the French initiative, the French President Emanuel Macron said.