Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria reiterated on Sunday their support for the Libyan Political Agreement – signed in Skhirat in December 2015 – as a political solution for the country, just hours after it was declared 'expired' and 'no longer binding' by Gen. Khalifa Hafta, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA).
In a joint press statement issued following tripartite talks held in the Tunisian capital on the security and political situation in Libya, Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry and his two North African counterparts – Tunisian FM Khemaies Jhinaou and Algerian FM Abdel Kader Messahel – said the Skhirat agreement is essential to acheiving a political solution.
Their statement came hours after the LNA head Khalifa Hafter – who maintains control over the eastern part of the country as the UN-backed government operates out of the capital Tripoli in the west – said in a televised speech that he no longer accepts the Skhirat agreement or any bodies originating from it, including the Libyan Presidential Council.
The Libyan general said that the LNA was now the only body in the country that had any legitimacy. Haftar described the Skhirat agreement and other inter-party dialogues as mere "ink on paper".
However, in their statement on Sunday, the three ministers stressed that the Skhirat agreement was approved and mandated by the United Nations, which has a political and legal responsibility toward resolving the Libyan crisis.
The UN plays a pivotal role in Libya due to its sponsorship of the Libyan political dialogue, the ministers said.
They further said they were “relieved” by the efforts of UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame to speed up the process of reaching a political settlement.
They also welcomed a UN Security Council presidential statement on 14 December 2017, in which the 15‑member body “reiterated that the Libyan Political Agreement of 17 December 2015 remained the only viable framework to end the Libyan political crisis and that its implementation remained key to holding elections and finalizing the political transition.”
The three ministers called on all Libyan parties to engage in dialogue and implement the September 2017 Action Plan suggested by Salame. They said the transitional phase must be ended soon, with a positive security and political atmosphere established for presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Action Plan consists of a number of elements being implemented by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). These include amending the Libyan Political Agreement, organizing a National Conference, preparing for elections, and providing humanitarian assistance.
The three ministers stressed their rejection of foreign interference in Libya, as well as any internal escalation “or any attempt, from any Libyan side, to undermine the political process.”
The ministers said they applauded the efforts by the Libyan authorities to solve the problem of irregular immigration, adding that the situation calls for a comprehensive approach by the international community that takes into account the root causes of the problem.
The ministers also applauded their own countries' joint security efforts to evaluate terrorist threats to Libya and neighbouring nations. They said they had agreed to boost the exchange of information regarding the movement of terrorist elements from areas of conflict within the region.
The ministers agreed to hold their next meeting in Algeria, the statement concluded.
This week’s meeting in Tunisia was the fourth in 2017 and is part of a tripartite initiative by Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria to meet periodically to discuss the situation in Libya and coordinate efforts to end the crisis.
In November, talks were held in Cairo, at which the three FMs presented their efforts in resolving the crisis, reaffirming their countries' support for Libya's stability and unity.