TRIPOLI – Libya’s parallel eastern administration welcomed the announcement of a new transitional government to unify the country on Friday, but added that it would only cede power if parliament in the east approves it.
Saturday’s qualified statement of support, which later may deny the margin, highlights the challenges that the United States-led efforts must face to find a political solution to a decade of chaos, division and violence.
Libya has been divided between East and West since 2014, with the internationally recognized government of the National Agreement (GNA) in Tripoli and a rival government in Benghazi, supported by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east.
On Friday, the participants in the U.N. talks in Switzerland voted on a new Council presidency and a new head of government in order to monitor the preparations for the national parliamentary and presidential elections planned for December.
The loss of candidates in the vote – including East-based Speaker of Parliament Aguila Saleh, West-based Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and Defense Minister Saleh Namroush – have made public statements of support for the new government.
Under the rules agreed by the United Nations, chosen by the United Nations to represent the country’s rival political currents, the new Prime Minister, Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, has three weeks to form a new government and present it to parliament.
Parliament split in 2019 when a group of lawmakers broke up, making a full quorum deal difficult. However, if the new government is not ratified, the participants in the U.N. talks have agreed that they have the power to do so themselves.
Parliament had spoken out against the formation of the GNA and, under Abdullah Thinni, had appointed its own parallel administration in the east. He said on Saturday his government would not resign until a full parliamentary assembly approves the new government.
Haftar, who was appointed army chief by the Eastern Parliament, did not make an immediate statement. However, his headquarters in General Command welcomed the agreement and urged everyone to help get the December elections through.
The United Arab Emirates and Egypt, both of which supported Haftar during the war, have publicly expressed their support.
Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey who supports the GNA, spoke to Dbeibeh and the new presidency council chairman Abdulmajid al-Menfi to congratulate them, his office said on Saturday.
Erdogan told them that Turkey, whose armed forces had helped fend off a Haftar attack on Tripoli last year, « will continue to contribute to the peace, security and well-being of Libyans, » she added.
The United Nations previously stated that the UAE, Egypt, Turkey and Russia broke an arms embargo on Libya that they had publicly approved.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya Newsroom, additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Christina Fincher and Nick Macfie)