Peace talks flounder as rival parliament demands changes to “final” UN deal text

Libya Channel

The long-awaited announcement of Libya’s unity government was postponed on Thursday amid fears of peace talks collapsing, when the country’s rival parliament failed to present its candidates and instead suggested changes to the deal’s text that the UN has said is “final “.

Lawmakers in the General National Congress, the Tripoli-based rival legislature, had initially called a closed-door meeting on Thursday to propose a list of names for the new joint body.

They were expected to present the chosen candidates on Thursday to the United Nations,  that would announce the new united government as the final step in year-long negotiations to end the country’s deepening civil war.

The internationally-recognized parliament, the House of Representatives, and independent peace talk attendees, have already submitted their government choices.

But GNC members told Libya Channel that they were unhappy with the current draft and so were proposing alterations to the text, which had to be accepted before they could move forward.

“Tomorrow we will discuss the names of the candidates for the government if Leon accepts the GNC’s final amendments,” GNC lawmaker Naima Hany said.

Changes to the text will likely be met with fierce opposition from the HoR and its representatives, and the UN dragging out negotiations indefinitely.

Wednesday night UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon – who is in Skhirat, Morocco where the talks are being held – announced his dismay at the delay.

“Unfortunately the decision that we were expecting was not taken.But we have decided to go on… and hopefully tomorrow we will be able to propose this government.,” he told reporters, sparking speculation he would push ahead without the GNC, if they refused to play ball.

“There will be no more changes to the text. This agreement is final, it is not going to change,” he warned.

The HoR, elected last summer, has been forced to operate in the east of the country since armed coalition Libya Dawn swept control of the capital and reinstalled the GNC, sparking the civil war.

Fighting between forces loyal to both sides has threatened to rip the country in two. Amid the security vacuum a flourishing insurgency has taken hold, with the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda building strongholds across the country. Meanwhile oil production has plummeted, the healthcare system has collapsed and both rival governments have been powerless to stop a surge in  violence and crime. At least half the population is in desperate need of aid and protection, OCHA said last week.

The UN has hosted peace talks for several months with the aim of building a government uniting the warring factions and so a political solution to the crisis.

 On Tuesday Leon promised they were in closing stages of the negotiations, that a peace deal and blueprint for the unity government had been finalized.

“We have an agreement. This agreement is final. This agreement is balanced, and this agreement is a great opportunity for Libya,” he said.

But Tripoli lawmakers are under pressure from more hardline factions within Libya Dawn who oppose all talks with the internationally-recognized parliament.

In June, Salah Badi, an influential Misrata militia commander in Dawn, formed the “Steadfastness Front” a coalition of seven different brigades that claimed to “protect the security of the capital” by shunning all “compromises”. Badi and his Steadfastness Front have subsequently opposed all dialogue tracks, dividing their coalition.

Libya Channel’s correspondent in Tripoli reported small protests against the dialogue process outside the GNC building during Wednesday’s sessions. While an explosion erupted in the area as the session went ahead – with many speculating it was a deliberate attack to scupper the meeting. GNC officials maintained it was just “fireworks” not a bomb.

Back in Morocco the UN’s Leon vowed to push on.

“The message tonight is a message of unity, a message of trust…We know that many people are confused today,” he said. “I can tell them we will prevail, that we will be able to propose a government tomorrow.”

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