UN hopeful for Libya following Tunis meeting

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres and the U.N. Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, durring a meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, March 30,2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres and the U.N. Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, durring a meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, March 30,2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Libya’s two rival leaders may for the first time be on the path to solving a key dispute over control of the army, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday.

This is the latest development in the ongoing efforts to overcome the country’s eight-year-long conflict. 

“If is there is a word that defines what I think and feel about Libya today that word is hope. This is a moment of hope for Libya,” said the UN Secretary-General in a press conference.

“I have hope because I believe that it is possible to have now a Libyan-led political process aiming at the solution of the Libyan problems.”

He spoke after a meeting with officials of the Arab League, European Union and African Union ahead of an Arab leaders’ summit in Tunis on Sunday.

The United Nations has been working to broker a power sharing agreement between Khalifa Haftar, a commander controlling eastern Libya allied to a parallel government, and the internationally-recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, based in Tripoli.

One key obstacle has been whether Haftar can head a unified Libyan army under civilian command, which would form part of a new national government.

“We see signs that the contradictions that you have noted could possibly be overcome for the first time,” Guterres told reporters when asked whether the two leaders could reach an agreement on the question of civilian army command.

In a tweet, UN Special Representative Salamé called on the Libyan people “not to waste the opportunity” of the recommendations adopted during this high-level meeting and “not to close this window to build a unified, civil, sovereign, capable, fair state.”

Since the 2011 overthrow of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the North African country has been contested by various armed factions, leading to a breakdown of the economy, infrastructure and security.

The meeting and press conference coincided with the start of Libya’s municipal elections in nine municipalities across the country.

The U.N. is holding a national conference in April in a bid to end the political conflict. The U.N. efforts aim to prepare the country for long-delayed national elections.