The Malta Independent 26 June 2016, Sunday

Updated: Libya rivals announce unity government brokered by UN, Malta welcomes accord

Associated Press Tuesday, 19 January 2016, 10:06 Last update: about 6 months ago

Representatives of Libya's rival factions who are sitting in Tunis and negotiating through a U.N.-brokered process announced on Tuesday that they have formed a unity government aimed at stemming the chaos that has engulfed the country for the past years.

In a statement received by The Associated Press, the Unity Presidential Council said it has agreed on a 32-member Cabinet, drawn of representatives from across the country.

But whether that government will in fact be able to govern the country remains to be seen.

Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, its divisions only increased, splitting it into two governments and parliaments — the internationally recognized one in the country's east, and an Islamist-backed one in the capital, Tripoli.

Each side is backed by an array of different militias. Amid the chaos, a Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State group has surged and has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks as it tries to expand its territory and take control of oil terminals and fields, the sole source of Libya's wealth.

In December, blocs from Libya's rival parliaments signed a U.N.-brokered deal to form the unity government and established a Unity Presidential Council. The Tunisia-based council includes representatives from the rival parliaments and governments, as well as delegates from other factions. But other members of both the two main factions have rejected the U.N. plan.

According to the deal, the new government should be based in Tripoli but it is not clear if the current Tripoli-based authorities opposing the deal would allow it to operate in peace. Recently, a Tripoli-based premier threatened use of force against a security committee tasked to secure venue for the new government.

The head of the council who is also supposed to be the prime minister, Fayez Sarraj, has struggled to form the unity government, which now has 10 days to win the internationally-recognized parliament's endorsement.

The Cabinet's line-up shows that Sarraj has tried to bring together opponents, a tactic that only could potentially lead to a new round of bickering.

The designated-defense minister, Al-Mahdi al-Barghathi, is one of eastern Libya's army commanders. He has been fighting a coalition of Islamic extremists, including the local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group in the eastern city of Benghazi. He answers to army chief Gen. Khalifa Hifter, one of Libya's strongmen and a divisive figure because of his enmity with Islamists of all shades, including the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

The designated-interior minister, Al-Aref al-Khoga, is a former interior minister from the Tripoli-based government who is known to have close ties with Islamists. The designated-information minister, Khaled Nejm, held the same post in the current government based in eastern Libya. He is also a federalist, advocating a semi-autonomous region in the east.

Sarraj's council is also supposed to name the army chief, but who will hold that post has been another divisive issue. The current army chief, Hifter, is despised by the Tripoli-based rivals.

In a statement, the Government of Malta said it welcomed the formation of the Libyan Government of National Accord by the Presidency Council which was announced this morning. This follows the signing of an Agreement in Schirat, Morocco in December 2015.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr George W. Vella hailed today's development as a very important step towards the general stabilisation of Libya and thanked UN Special Representative Martin Kobler for his efforts to enable this accomplishment. Minister Vella also appealed to those who remain hesitant on endorsing UN efforts to look at the possibility of engagement in this process. At the same time, Minister Vella stated, the international community should keep all doors of dialogue open to ensure that the process becomes an all-inclusive one.

 

Latest developments in Libya are being discussed today during a Senior Officials Meeting with Special Representative Martin Kobler in Rome, at which Malta is actively participating.

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