TRIPOLI – Libya’s parallel eastern administration on Saturday 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.
The qualified statement of support – which later leaves room to oppose the move – 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, participants in the United States’ talks in Switzerland voted on a new presidency and head of government to oversee preparations for the national parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled 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 States, chosen by the United States 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, and Turkey, which supported the GNA, have all publicly expressed their support. The United States previously said that these foreign powers broke an arms embargo on Libya that it had publicly approved.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya Newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Christina Fincher)