UN Libya envoy says text of peace deal finalized


UN envoy Bernardino Leon said late Monday that a final text of a peace deal for war-torn Libya has been reached at talks in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat.

It was up to Libya’s rival factions to agree to the text, Leon said, but he warned that “this seems to be the only option.”

European countries and the United States have strongly backed Leon’s efforts to broker a deal between Libya’s internationally recognized government, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and an Islamist-leaning rival administration in the capital Tripoli.

The European Union and US are concerned that the chaos has enabled the Islamic State extremist group to gain a foothold on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and added to the numbers of migrants fleeing to Europe by sea.

The UN envoy said all the parties to the talks had agreed to come back after the end of this week’s Islamic Eid festival to discuss the make-up of a national unity government.

Leon said he hoped that process could be finalized in two or three days with the full peace deal finalized by October 20.

“You know that in every process in every negotiations there is a moment in which we have to declare that the job is done,” Leon said.

“We have now a text that is the final text. So, our part of the process is now finished,” the envoy said.

“We will not have any further negotiations, the parties are now expected to approve it or not to approve it,” he emphasized.

Leon would not be drawn on how the final text differed from previous drafts. Successive versions of the agreement have in turn drawn objections from the rival parliaments in Tobruk and Tripoli.

But, he said, talks in recent days had focussed on “a number of details… I don’t think these details are altering the essence of the text.”

Previous drafts of the agreement released by the UN Support Mission in Libya provided for a permanent ceasefire and a national unity government.

The Tobruk parliament, elected in 2014, would remain in place, but a new body called the Council of State, made up mainly of members of the Islamist-leaning former parliament which has resumed sessions in Tripoli, would share some of its powers.

Libya’s chaotic civil war has seen the numerous militias that emerged in the 2011 revolt against long-time ruler Moamer Gaddafi line up behind the two rival governments.

The conflict has allowed the Islamic State extremist group to gain territory around the city of Sirte in the centre of the country.

Libya’s lawlessness has facilitated people-smuggling across the Mediterranean and migrants workers already in Libya have also joined the flow of refugees and migrants leaving its Mediterranean coast in the hope of reaching Europe.

Recent days have seen an uptick in fighting as Tobruk’s army chief General Khalifa Haftar launched a renewed assault on hardline Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi, drawing reproaches from the UN and European states.

Haftar’s position has been one of the contentious issues at the talks, with Tripoli insisting that new commanders must be appointed to the military once the deal goes into effect.