Libya rivals urged to sign long-awaited peace deal

AFP , Friday 9 Oct 2015

United Nations envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon, center, makes an announcement to the media in Skhirat, Morocco, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 (Photo: AP)

World leaders urged Libya's warring parties Friday to sign a proposed peace deal installing a national unity government, after a cool response from some lawmakers in the country's rival parliaments.

Libya has had two administrations since August last year when a militia alliance that includes Islamists overran the capital, forcing the internationally recognised government to take refuge in the east.

The country descended into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with the two sides vying for power as well as several groups battling for control of its vast resource wealth.

The new government proposed by UN envoy Bernardino Leon would be headed by Fayez el-Sarraj, a deputy in the Tripoli parliament, and include three deputy prime ministers, one each from the west, east and south of the country.

A graduate in business management, Sarraj has been involved in dialogue that tried to bring together the various actors of Libyan society to end the crisis.

"After a year of work in this process, after working with more than 150 Libyan personalities from all the regions... finally the moment has come in which we can propose a national unity government," Leon told a news conference in Morocco.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the news, and appealed to warring factions to sign the accord.

He urged Libya's leaders "not to squander this opportunity to put the country back on the path to building a state that reflects the spirit and ambitions of the 2011 revolution.

"Now is the time for the parties to the political dialogue to endorse this proposal and sign the agreement without delay."

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the proposal "represents a genuine opportunity for the parties to resolve the political and security situation in Libya".

European Council President Donald Tusk also urged to the rival camps to accept it.

"I strongly encourage all the parties not to waste that opportunity. Libya has too few opportunities for lasting peace," Tusk said during a visit to Bulgaria.

Previous deals to ensure a ceasefire and restore stability to the strife-torn country have fallen apart, and officials from both sides expressed scepticism after the announcement.

Abdulsalam Bilashahir, of the Tripoli-based General National Congress, told the BBC: "We are not a part of this (proposed) government. It means nothing to us and we were not consulted."

Ibrahim Alzaghiat, from the internationally recognised House of Representatives based in Tobruk, was also quoted as saying: "This proposed government will lead to the division of Libya and will turn it into a joke. Mr Leon's choice was unwise."

But Leon said the new government list could be agreed by all sides.

"Too many Libyans have lost their lives, too many children have been suffering, too many mothers have been suffering... around 2.4 million Libyans are in a situation of humanitarian need," he said.

"I would like to ask all these Libyans to think of an opportunity for their country," said Leon.

"This was not an easy task. We have been listening to many people, inside and outside the dialogue. And we believe that this list can work.

"It is a quite reasonably good list of names, politicians, personalities that will do their best, I'm sure, to take their country out of this crisis," he said.

Years of chaos in Libya have turned it into a hub for human-trafficking gangs, which have fuelled Europe's huge migrant crisis by sending thousands of people on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

More than 3,000 people have died or are feared drowned after trying to make the crossing since the start of this year, according to the UN refugee agency.

On Thursday, Libyan authorities said they had arrested some 300 migrants as they were preparing to board boats.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the announcement from Libya, and pledged some 100 million euros ($110 million) in support for the new government.

"There is no time to waste in the formation of a government of national accord, so that it may -- with the full recognition and support of the international community -- begin working for the benefit of all the Libyan people," she said in a statement.

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