Libya’s rivals declare unity Cabinet under UN plan

Representatives of Libya's rival factions who are sitting in Tunis and negotiating through a UN-brokered process announced on Tuesday that they have formed a unity government aimed at stemming the chaos that has engulfed the country in recent years.

BENGHAZI, Libya — Representatives of Libya’s rival factions who are sitting in Tunis and negotiating through a UN-brokered process announced on Tuesday that they have formed a unity government aimed at stemming the chaos that has engulfed the country in recent years.

In a statement received by The Associated Press, the Unity Presidential Council said it has agreed on a 32-member Cabinet, drawn of representatives from across the country.

But whether that government will in fact be able to govern the country remains to be seen.

Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, its divisions only increased, splitting it into two governments and parliaments — the internationally recognized one in the country’s east, and an Islamist-backed one in the capital, Tripoli.

Each side is backed by an array of different militias. Amid the chaos, a Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State group has surged, claiming responsibility for a series of deadly attacks as it tries to expand its territory and take control of oil terminals and fields, the sole source of Libya’s wealth.

In December, blocs from Libya’s rival parliaments signed a U.N.-brokered deal to form the unity government and established a Unity Presidential Council. The Tunisia-based council includes representatives from the rival parliaments and governments, as well as delegates from other factions. But other members of both the two main factions have rejected the U.N. plan.

The United Nations has warned that further delays in implementing the plan will only empower the Islamic State affiliate. U.N. envoy Marin Kobler, who brokered the plan, tweeted this week that the Libyan political scene is divided while the Islamic State is united and “set on its destructive goal.”

On Monday, Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi of the internationally-recognized government told reporters during a visit to Cairo that the formation of a Cabinet was a condition for lifting an international arms embargo on the Libyan army fighting Islamic militants.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the Cabinet announcement an “essential step” and said Libya was now at a “critical juncture,” urging all key players in Libya to “uphold the interests of their country and its people.”

Italy praised the development as an opportunity to bring stability to its former colony, where the ongoing conflict has contributed to the migration crisis on Europe’s southern borders. Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said it was now “fundamental” that Libya’s internationally-recognized government approves the Cabinet.

Also in Rome, U.N. envoy Kobler and representatives of 18 countries and three international organizations were meeting to discuss international support for Libya’s political, economic, humanitarian and security needs.

According to the U.N.-brokered deal, the new government should be based in Tripoli.

However, it is not clear if the current Tripoli-based authorities who oppose the deal would allow it to operate in peace. Recently, a Tripoli-based premier threatened to use force against a security committee supposed to secure a venue for the new government.

The head of the council who is also supposed to be the prime minister, Fayez Sarraj, has struggled to form the unity government. The Cabinet now has 10 days to win the internationally-recognized parliament’s endorsement and a month to implement the remaining articles in the deal, including having all militias pull out from Libyan cities.

The lineup of the new Cabinet was approved by seven out of nine members of the presidential council, after two members walked out in protest. It shows Sarraj tried to bring together various opponents, a tactic that could potentially lead to a new round of bickering.

The designated defence minister, Al-Mahdi al-Barghathi, is one of eastern Libya’s army commanders. He has been fighting a coalition of Islamic extremists, including the local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group in the eastern city of Benghazi. He answers to army chief Gen. Khalifa Hifter, one of Libya’s strongmen and a divisive figure because of his enmity with Islamists of all shades, including the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

The designated interior minister, Al-Aref al-Khoga, is a former interior minister from the Tripoli-based government who is known to have close ties with Islamists. The designated-information minister, Khaled Nejm, held the same post in the current government based in eastern Libya. He is also a federalist, advocating a semi-autonomous region in the east.

Over the past years, Libya’s transitional governments have been intimidated by militias and, on occasion, armed men would storm ministers’ offices and besiege parliament sessions to pressure lawmakers and ministers to meet their demands.

Sarraj’s council is also supposed to name the army chief, though who will hold that post has been another divisive issue. The current army chief, Hifter, is despised by the Tripoli-based rivals.

Sarraj had been expected to appoint a 10-member Cabinet but came under pressure and increased the number of portfolios.

“If Sarraj succumbed to pressure to expand the government, what would happen if he tried to enter Tripoli,” asked Abdullah al-Amodi from the western city of Zintan, where most armed groups support Libya’s eastern, internationally-recognized parliament.

Sarraj also split some portfolios, distributing the sections among different tribes, political groups and regions. Instead of one foreign minister, he designated three diplomats for the job — one to head the foreign ministry, another for Arab and African affairs and a third one for international relations.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo by Black Press News Services)
QEII closed between 67 Street, 32 Street at Red Deer

Drivers are being asked to use alternate routes as southbound and northbound… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

FILE - In this Friday Aug. 21, 2020 file photo, Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, addresses the media in Berlin, Germany. Activists for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are calling for massive protests in the heart of Moscow and St. Petersburg as Navalny's health reportedly is deteriorating severely while on hunger strike. Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said the demonstrations are called on short notice for Wednesday April 21, 2021, because "his life hangs in the balance. ... We don't know how long he can hold on." (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
Navalny’s team calls protests amid reports of failing health

MOSCOW — Associates of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called Sunday… Continue reading

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a news conference Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla. DeSantis has received a single-dose coronavirus vaccine. His office confirmed Wednesday, April 7, 2021 that the Republican governor got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single dose. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, file)
GOP White House hopefuls move forward as Trump considers run

WASHINGTON — Less than three months after former President Donald Trump left… Continue reading

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

Most Read