Libya: Agreement on Unity and Elections


June 9, 2023: Libya remains divided and deadlocked. There are two main factions, one in the east based in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, in the west. The UN backs the Tripoli faction, as do local Islamic militias and Turkish troops and mercenaries. The eastern faction controls most of the oil and export ports. The Russian Wagner Group mercenaries are based in the east but now see themselves as peacekeepers and work with the Turks to maintain a ceasefire. This allows Russian oil firms to operate in Libya and do work for the Libyan national oil company. Both factions support national elections to unite the country but neither faction trusts the others enough to proceed with elections. Russia and the Turks refuse to withdraw their troops from Libya until they receive guarantees that their interests in Libya are respected. The UN and NATO oppose that because the Tripoli faction wants to legitimize an illegal treaty signed by the Tripoli faction in 2019 granting Turkey some of Greece’s offshore oil and natural gas rights in an area between Libya and Turkey that ignores existing, and internationally recognized, claims on that area. Turkey and Greece are both NATO members and NATO backs Greece in this matter. Turkey won’t withdraw its forces from Libya until a new national Libyan government assures the Turks that the illegal agreement is confirmed by a national Libyan government. Many people in both factions do not want to be stuck with a treaty that the UN and NATO consider illegal. Russia is no friend of NATO and is currently at war with NATO in Ukraine. Turkey is also a NATO member but most other NATO members would like to expel the Turks from NATO and there is no legal mechanism for that. Turks and Russians are troublemakers in Europe and Libya is a foreign branch of that mischief.

Despite all the divisive problems, all the factions recently agreed to support one prime minister and hold national elections before the end of 2023.

Russia has moved its embassy from Benghazi to Tripoli. Delays were caused by security concerns. Tripoli still has problems with local militias. By reopening its embassy in Tripoli and backing the Abdulhamid Dbeibah faction in Tripoli rather than the Fathi Bashagha faction and the LNA (Libyan National Army) in the east, Russia is in effect cooperating with Turkey, whose illegal agreements with the Tripoli government include giving Russia some of Greece’s rights to explore for oil and gas in areas of the Mediterranean. Libya is encouraging the reestablishment of embassies in Tripoli. The American embassy closed in 2014 but so far the Americans have no plans to reopen their embassy. A few dozen nations have, or are planning to reopen their embassies in Tripoli.

China has not waited for an embassy to open and has already negotiated several investment deals, including a $33 billion railroad, bus route transportation project and a license to mine for gold in the south. China is accused of bribing local tribes and others to enable these projects to move forward.

June 5, 2023: The Libyan GAAIA (General Authority for Awqaf and Islamic Affairs) is seeking to establish a Guardians of Virtue organization to police the practice of Islam in Libya. This sort of thing is not popular with most Libyans.

June 4, 2023: In the east, about half the 4,000 Egyptians found to be in Libya illegally have been sent back to Egypt. Some of these Egyptians were in Libya to get on a boat to Europe. Others sought work in Libya, something Egyptians have been doing for decades.

June 2, 2023: The UN renewed the European Union authority to inspect ships near Libya to prevent illegal arms shipment to Libya.

May 31, 2023: In Tripoli, another gun battle broke out between rival militias loyal to the Tripoli government. Several people were wounded before the fighting stopped.

May 27, 2023: The Tripoli government used armed UAVs to carry out airstrikes against smugglers operating near Tripoli.

May 23, 2023: The Libyan 6+6 committee met in Morocco and worked out the agreement required to hold national elections by the end of the year. The 6+6 means six representatives from the House of Representatives government in the east and six from the High Council of State government in Tripoli. Now Libya has only one prime minister. Morocco has hosted several conferences like this over the last few years and some progress was made each time.

May 16, 2023: In the east, the House of Representatives government ousted its prime minister Fathi Bashagha because of mismanagement and corruption. This makes it more likely that a peace deal with the government in Tripoli can be negotiated.




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