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The new UN plan for the elections in Libya divides Russia and the United States

The idea of ​​the special representative of the secretary general, Bathily, is to form a High Committee of 30-40 members with the main Libyan institutional subjects. But the proposal has also received criticism at home

© Agenzia Nova - Reproduction reserved

The new plan to overcome the Libyan political crisis announced yesterday by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Abdoulaye Bathily, has aroused contrasting reactions, both instrumental and of substance, in the North African country and in the international community. Above all, it is striking that, for the moment, no resolutions, presidential declarations, let alone press releases have come out of the Security Council in relation to yesterday's briefing and the subsequent closed-door meeting. The words of the Senegalese politician certainly aroused the perplexity of some diplomats of the Glass Palace, starting from the representatives of the Russian Federation, receiving instead the open support of the United States. At home, however, criticisms have come from the House of Representatives and the High Council of State.

Twelve years after the revolution of 17 February 2011, the UN envoy criticized the "lack of legitimacy" of the Libyan political class and pointed the finger at two institutions in particular: the House of Representatives of the east on one side, the legislative forum elected back in 2014; and the High Council of State of Tripoli on the other, the "upper house" of Libya with almost predominantly advisory functions, but still indispensable for the most important decisions. The two chambers "were unable to agree on a constitutional basis for the elections," Bathily said, thus proposing the establishment of a new "High-Level Committee" that will have to include key Libyan "stakeholders" to draft the amendments. constitutional and electoral laws needed to hold “free, inclusive and transparent” elections by 2023.

The House of Representatives has responded rather harshly to what would appear to all intents and purposes a "commissariat" of the Libyan electoral process by the United Nations. The UN envoy's briefing contained "inaccuracies on the lack of approval of the constitutional basis", said the presidency of the Chamber, adding that Bathily's report did not address the suspension of sessions of the High Council of State "which in 2021 has hampered the elections". While welcoming the international community's support for the right of the Libyan people to hold free and fair elections and appreciating the role of Unsmil in this regard, the presidency of the Libyan Parliament claimed "ownership" of the Libyan electoral process, explaining that it is "the 'sole guarantor of the success of any initiative in this sense”. The note from the presidency of the House of Representatives adds that "corruption and the waste of public money are among the most important factors that have hindered the electoral process in the country: there was no indication of this in the UN envoy's briefing". Not only. Parliament accused the UN mission of "double standards" and a "lack of neutrality". “We remind all Libyans, the UN envoy and the international community that accusing the House of Representatives alone is not correct and contradicts the Libyan reality: external interference, the failure to complete the results of the Geneva road map within the deadlines already set and the failure to complete reconciliation (…) are the most important obstacles to ending the Libyan crisis”.

Even the so-called Libyan Government of National Stability (GSN) appointed by the House of Representatives, led by the designated premier Fathi Bashagha, protested against Bathily, who completely ignored it yesterday in his briefing. The parallel executive, not recognized by the international community, stated in a statement that it "appreciates the efforts made to get out of the Libyan crisis, but the attempt to overcome the official political bodies does not help to find satisfactory solutions and places the mission in a non-neutral position ”. The Bashagha government believes that the political agreement signed in Skhirat in 2015 provides the right "basis of legitimacy of the High Council of State, the House of Representatives and the Libyan Stability Government formed after an agreement between the two institutions".

No mention was made by the UN envoy of the parallel eastern executive led by the prime minister designated by Parliament for some time now without international legitimacy, nor of the attempts by the House and Senate to install a "new unified government" until the elections. This latter circumstance can be interpreted as an endorsement of the current transition phase led by the Government of National Unity led by Abdulahmid Dabaiba in power in Tripoli and by the Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by General Khalifa Haftar in power in Benghazi.

At the international level, the "full support" granted to the UN plan by the representative of the United States to the UN Security Council, Ambassador Robert Wood. According to the US diplomat, the status quo in Libya "is not stable" and "the only way forward for a lasting peace is to allow the Libyan people to choose their leaders in national elections" facilitated by the new initiative launched by the United Nations. The US representative expressed concern about the possible disruption of energy supplies and the risk of partition of the country. The US diplomat asked the Security Council to "fully support" the UN envoy who is working to develop adequate mechanisms for the elections. The US delegate urged the need to reinvigorate the electoral process and support security efforts to resolve outstanding issues preventing the election from taking place. "Now is the time to restore momentum" to resolve the Libyan crisis, Wood said.

On the contrary, Russia has effectively rejected the new UN initiative. The Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, while expressing Moscow's appreciation for Bathily's commitment to organizing an "inclusive and transparent" electoral process, he warned against any form of "excessive haste" in addressing the Libyan question, since "it is difficult for a poorly prepared vote can solve all of Libya's current problems". On the contrary, it could be "counterproductive and nullify all the previously hard-won progress of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State". Polyanskiy then praised Egypt's commitment, stating that the involvement of all leading political forces in Libya, including representatives "of the previous authorities", is a necessary precondition for the success of the elections. This last passage would seem to be a reference to Saif al Islam Gaddafi, second son of the late Rais Muammar Gaddafi officially candidate for the presidency. The Russian representative also expressed his support for the initiatives of the African Union and the president of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, for the internal balance of the country. For Moscow, in fact, this is a good time to convene a national Libyan conference on reconciliation, based on the principle of "African solutions for African problems". To obtain peace, added Polyanskiy, coordinated action of all regional and international actors is needed, since their divisions contribute to the current political stalemate.

Furthermore, reconciliation and rebalancing between the parties in Libya is only a starting point, since the country faces the challenge of reconstruction and economic recovery "following the illegal NATO intervention in 2011", said the Russian diplomat. Polyanskiy then accused "some Western countries" of "hypocrisy" in playing the card of Libyan oil exports for their own geopolitical and commercial interests. Similarly, according to the Russian representative, the United States is trying to maintain the "status quo" to ensure that Libya remains a reliable exporter of oil on world markets. As for the foreign military presence in Libya, Russia supports the "synchronized, balanced and gradual" withdrawal of all non-Libyan armed groups, without exception.

China, for its part, has placed the emphasis on national reconciliation in Libya, which it considers "the only way to heal the country's wounds and to encourage its development". According to the Chinese representative to the United Nations, zhang jun, "the important thing is to reach a solution to the constitutional crisis and the political stalemate", which is why "all the parties involved should work in the interest of the country and of the people and put an end to the divisions as soon as possible in view of the reconstruction and the development of the state". Furthermore, according to Zhang Jun, it is necessary "to support efforts to advance the political process in Libya and promote dialogue between the parties, pushing towards an agreement with the aim of calling elections as soon as possible". Finally, the Chinese diplomat urged Security Council members to support the initiative of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Abdoulaye Bathily, to organize legislative elections and policies by 2023. Furthermore, it is necessary to find “internal solutions” avoiding the “complicated repercussions” of any “external solutions”. Finally, Zhang Jun affirmed the need for a withdrawal of all foreign formations and militias, which "threaten the security of Libya and neighboring countries".

France has said it supports the commitment and the proposals of the special representative of the UN secretary general. The French representative to the United Nations, Natalie Broadhurst, underlined that "the priorities of Paris do not change, it is necessary to re-establish political legitimacy and this implies the relaunch of the electoral process". In this, France supports "the commitment and proposals of the special representative (Bathily)", in particular the establishment of a "high-level group to organize the elections". Paris therefore urges support for the work of the Joint Military Committee, in particular the effort "to create a unified Libyan army and to dismantle and reintegrate the militias", and announced the allocation of 100 euros to "finance the efforts" of Bathily in support of the Joint Military Committee. Indeed, according to the French diplomat, Libya "twelve years after the February 2011 revolution deserves more than a society in which democratic space and fundamental freedoms are threatened" and in which "access to power and public funds is an end in itself, not a means to contribute to the economic development and general interest” of the country. For this reason, the Libyans expect to participate in "simultaneous, inclusive, credible and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections", but this implies the presence of "a unified government", which is also fundamental for the protection of the borders. Equally essential, according to Nathalie Broadhurst, are "a new political plan and an agreement on a legal basis", which "ensures equal opportunities for candidates" and excludes phenomena of "corruption and intimidation". Furthermore, the population "expects a fair and transparent redistribution of oil revenues, for the good of all regions of Libya". Finally, the French diplomat reaffirmed her commitment to "maintain consensus in Libya in favor of the fight against terrorism", pressing for compliance with the embargo and for the "withdrawal of all foreign forces, fighters and mercenaries, from Libyan territory , in collaboration with Libya's neighboring countries".

The United Arab Emirates also support Bathily's initiative to prepare the ground for holding legislative and presidential elections by the end of the year. The UAE representative to the UN, Mohammed Abu Shehab, in a statement, explained that the success of the UN initiative depends on the collective support of the international community, beyond geopolitical tensions, and on coordination with the Libyan parties involved in the crisis. "Cohesion and respect for the ceasefire agreement", reads the statement, "is a fundamental pillar for preserving stability in Libya, which is why it is necessary to continue with the negotiations of the Joint Military Committee, in the presence of the representatives from neighboring countries and local and international observers.

Italy, for its part, "is talking with everyone for stability, access to elections and agreement between all parties" in Libya, as stated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Antonio Tajani, in an interview with the Emirate television station "Sky News Arabia". “We have worked a lot for the stability of Libya which is a major issue for us and we have met with government officials in Tripoli,” she added. The head of the Farnesina hoped for the involvement of other countries to obtain stability in Libya. “We would like the participation of countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and all influential countries that are able to contribute to the achievement of peace and stability in Libya, which will reflect positively on the whole of North Africa and on the Sub-Saharan countries,” concluded Tajani.

Bathily's proposal: a committee of 30-40 members

Libyan sources tell "Agenzia Nova" that Bathily's idea is to form a High Committee of 30-40 members with the main Libyan institutional subjects: from the protagonists of the 2015 Shkirat Agreement to the 5+5 Military Committee (format by 5 senior officials from the East and as many from the West), from members of the Chamber and the Council of State to experts and representatives of civil society. The same sources add that the intention of the UN envoy is to achieve a "balance within the Committee that prevents politicians from bringing about the obstructionism practiced up to now". The UN envoy also praised the aforementioned 5+5 Committee, speaking of "encouraging steps forward" on the dossier of rearmament and the reintegration of armed groups into a unified army.

The same high-level committee proposed by Bathily, according to "Nova" sources, will indicate a "road map", an electoral path that will have to be implemented or in some way transmitted to the Presidential Council, the tripartite presidential body of Libya made up of a president and two deputies representing Cyrenaica (Mohamed Menfi), Fezzan (Moussa Kuni) and Tripolitania (Abdullah Lafi). It is no coincidence that Bathily expressly encouraged the Presidential Council to implement, with the support of the African Union, "the necessary steps for an inclusive national reconciliation conference in Libya". The UN envoy then thanked for having been invited to a meeting on the elections that the Presidential Council of Tripoli wanted to organize in Ghadames on 11 January. Meeting never held due to the open boycott of Mishri and Saleh, who preferred to go to Egypt excluding the UN channels.

Finally, it should be emphasized that no mention has been made of the so-called Government of national stability, the parallel executive of the East led by the premier designated by Parliament, Fathi Bashagha, who has long since lacked international legitimacy, nor of the attempts of the Chamber and of the Senate to install a "new unified government" until the elections. This latter circumstance can be interpreted as an endorsement of the current transition phase led by the Government of National Unity led by Abdulahmid Dabaiba in power in Tripoli and by the Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by General Khalifa Haftar in power in Benghazi. The sources of "Nova" add that Bathily would like to call the first meeting of the new Committee before the Islamic holy lunar month of Ramadan, which this year will begin on March 23, a circumstance that will inevitably lengthen the timing of the plan of the UN envoy, who would close the procedure relating to the draft constitution and electoral laws "by the end of May".

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