Fayez al-Sarraj, head of Libya’s internationally recognized government, has said he wants to step down by the end of October and hand over power to a new executive as efforts to find a political solution to the country’s years-long conflict come together. with rhythm.
In a brief televised speech Wednesday, al-Sarraj said UN-mediated talks between the country’s rival factions have led to a “new preparatory phase” to unify Libyan institutions and prepare for parliamentary elections. and presidential.
“I announce for all my sincere desire to remove my functions from the next administration no later than the end of October, “he said from the capital, Tripoli.
Al-Sarraj is the head of the Tripoli-based National Accord Government (GNA), while eastern Libya and much of the south are controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar’s LNA – which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia – launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture Tripoli from al-Sarraj’s government. But the campaign collapsed in June when Turkish-backed GNA forces gained the upper hand and drove the LNA from the outskirts of the capital and other western cities, with the now-hardened front line near the central city of Sirte.
Under heavy international pressure, delegates from rival camps met earlier this month and agreed on a preliminary agreement aimed at leading the country towards elections within 18 months and demilitarizing Sirte.
The Haftar-controlled coastline is the gateway to Libya’s major oil fields and export terminals, also held by the 76-year-old.
The LNA has blocked energy exports since January, depriving the Libyan state of its main source of income, deteriorating living standards and contributing to protests in cities controlled by both sides.
In Tripoli, protests fueled tensions between al-Sarraj and influential Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, whom he briefly suspended last month before reinstating him.
Talks are expected to resume soon in Geneva.
“This is effectively the initial weapon for a new round of maneuvering for what comes next,” Tarek Megerisi, a political associate at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Reuters, referring to al- Serraj to leave.
“Ultimately it will leave the GNA as an entity and western Libya, slightly degraded,” he added.
Al-Sarraj’s departure could lead to new clashes between other senior GNA figures, and between armed groups from Tripoli and the interior minister’s Misrata coastal town exercising control over the land.
“The militia issue will be more alive,” said Jalel Harchaoui, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute.
Al-Sarraj has led the GNA since it was formed in 2015 as a result of a UN-backed political deal aimed at uniting and stabilizing Libya following the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising ousted by Muammar Gaddafi.
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Despite the failures and weaknesses of the government he led, al-Sarraj is seen as a moderate with whom parts of the eastern faction and their foreign allies, as well as other international players, had smooth relations.
Al-Sarraj, who arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday following a visit to his close ally Turkey, urged negotiators to quickly appoint a new administration to “ensure a peaceful and smooth transition”.
Separately, the Turkish Foreign MinisterMevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Turkey and Russia were close to reaching an agreement on a ceasefire and a political process to end the long-running conflict following the latest round of talks between the two energy mediators in Ankara.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, told a news conference Wednesday that Libya was seeking a new political process.
“This political process must renew the existing institutions and, at the same time, move for elections at an acceptable delay,” he said. “There are signs of hope.”
Guterres also said there are “promising contacts” to agree on a lasting ceasefire rather than the military stalemate that currently exists.
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