11.02.2021 Author: Valery Kulikov

Has the US Reached a Truce in Libya?

As a result of five days (February 1-5) of UN-mediated Forum for Political Dialogue to resolve the Libyan crisis in Geneva, 74 selected delegates from both main sides of the civil war going on in Libya selected a new unified leadership for the transitional period. The three-member Presidential Council and the Prime Minister must propose within three weeks the composition of their government to the representatives of the parties, upon approval of which the current parallel authorities must cease to operate. The new interim executive body is expected to last until the all-Libyan elections scheduled for December 24, 2021.

Mohammad Younes Menfi was elected head of the Presidential Council of Libya, Musa Al-Koni and Abdullah Hussein Al-Lafi were elected members of the Presidential Council, and Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh was elected prime minister.

The “powerhouses” of Libyan politics were left out. In particular, the leaders of East and West Libya – the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar and the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj, the speaker of the House of Representatives based in the East Aguila Saleh, the head of the Interior Ministry of the National Accord Government controlling Tripoli Fathi Bashagha. The son of the last legitimate leader of the North African state, Muammar Gaddafi, Seif al-Islam, who had already been proposed as a presidential candidate by Libyan public organizations in the hope that he would restore the country’s sovereignty and prestige both inside and outside the country, was also left out of the equation.

As for Mr. Bashagha’s candidacy, it must be explained that his anti-rating played against him, and therefore his candidacy was blocked. And along with him, the organizers of the Geneva Forum obviously specially presented him in the same list with such quite known to their foreign colleagues and among the population of the regions of Cyrenaica and Thetzan (unlike the candidates of the winning “list”) figures as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and Libyan Ambassador to Morocco Abdelmajid Seif al-Nasr.

It is also noteworthy that the winner for the role of the new Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, a native of Misrata, was supported by less than 1% of the population in the polls.

Mohammad Younes Menfi, now the head of the Presidential Council, effectively becomes the head of state. Born in 1976, he has a doctorate in engineering from the University of Tobruk and comes from the Menfi tribe in eastern Libya. Educated in France, he was an activist in the Association of Libyan Students in France and an ardent supporter of the 1969 Muammar Gaddafi’s revolution. In 2012, he joined the General National Congress (Parliament), where he chaired the Committee on Housing and Communal Services. Until 2020, he was the ambassador of Fayez al-Sarraj’s GNA to Greece, but in late 2019 was forced to leave the country at Athens’ request due to Sarraj’s signing of the border demarcation agreement with Turkey, which Greece and Egypt consider illegal.

The forum for political dialogue to resolve the Libyan crisis began with the support of the United Nations in Tunisia on November 9, 2020. 74 public and political figures from all districts of the country participate in it. From November to January of this year, online consultations were held. However, the citizens of Libya openly express their dissatisfaction with the fact that the Forum of Political Dialogue takes place outside the country; the overwhelming majority of the country’s residents consider cities such as Tripoli, Sirte or Benghazi to be the right venue for discussion, but not Tunis or Geneva.

In addition, many Libyans pointed to the lack of transparency in the nomination procedure for the new Presidential Council, with the result that citizens do not participate in deciding the fate of their own country.

Much of this negative attitude of Libyans toward the results of the Forum is due to the loss of confidence in the leadership of the acting head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), American Stephanie Williams, who has been selecting delegates from three different regions of the North African state at her discretion and clearly under Washington’s control. For example, many Libyans know practically nothing about the delegates representing their interests at the Forum and do not agree that the members of the terrorist organization Muslim Brotherhood (banned in Russia), supported by the US and British intelligence services, are included in the negotiation process with the active participation of Williams.

Muhammad Abani, a member of the House of Representatives from Tarhuna, considers the involvement of representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have a negative influence on Libyan politics, in the work of the Forum of Political Dialogue, which resulted in 60 percent of the delegates being radical Islamists, to be illegal. The politician called the cooperation between the UN and an extremist organization not only illegal but also unacceptable. According to him, in such conditions the risk of violation of the permanent ceasefire and resumption of armed clashes increases.

A certain amount of skepticism on the part of Libyans toward the results of the Forum is also due to the fact that during the meetings in Tunisia, a corruption scandal erupted and delegates were accused of selling their votes. However, the UN ignored the indignation of a number of Libyan politicians, as well as criticism that foreign diplomats, including Williams, were imposing solutions on them.

Under these circumstances, Libyans fear that the dialogue and the Forum itself will end with the East and West politicians refusing to hand over their authority to the new government.

The United States was especially satisfied with the results of the Forum, as it considered the pushing of suitable candidates for the new government of Libya and the removal of the LNA leader, Haftar, who had shown sympathy for Russia, a victory for itself. Overall, a number of analysts have the impression that Washington’s main goal in the Libyan issue is not to achieve peace and end the armed conflict in that country, but to return its presence in that country in order to gain a dominant influence on the Libyan energy market.

At the same time, the world is looking forward to the results of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, hoping that it will be an important step towards overcoming the protracted crisis in Libya. And one can only wish the new Libyan leadership to successfully meet the challenges of the transition period.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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