Middle East

Libya parliament suspends talks participation

In this Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 photo, a man is comforted by others as he mourns over Egyptian Coptic Christians who were captured in Libya and killed by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, outside of the Virgin Mary church in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BENGHAZI, Libya: Libya’s internationally recognized parliament Monday suspended its participation in U.N.-brokered talks on the future of the war-wracked North African state, officials said.

“The chamber of representatives today voted in favor of suspending its participation in the dialogue,” with a new round due to open in Morocco Thursday, MP Issa al-Aribi announced on Facebook.

Both the LANA state news agency and parliament’s own Facebook page confirmed the information.

The parliament said it would issue a statement giving the reasons for the decision, which came “after last Friday’s terror attacks in Al-Qoba that killed or wounded dozens of people.”

ISIS said it was behind suicide car bombings that the Health Ministry said killed 40 people, including six Egyptians, in the eastern town.

Another MP, said on condition of anonymity that the decision to pull out of talks was taken over fears that the international community would exert pressure to include Islamists in a future unity government.

President Barack Obama sent a formal letter to Congress Monday extending a national emergency for Libya for a year because of the conflict over power and access to the country’s resources.

“The situation in Libya continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Obama said in his letter to Congress.

Last week’s beheading of 21 mainly Egyptian Coptic Christians by ISIS prompted Cairo to launch airstrikes against the jihadis in Libya and call for an international coalition to hit the militants.

But U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon told the Security Council last Wednesday that the only cure for Libya’s trauma was political.

The international community faces a daunting task to find a political solution to the lawless nation’s political and military crisis.

Libya is awash with weapons and rival militias are battling for control of its cities and oil wealth.

It has two rival governments and parliaments, those recognized by the international community sitting in the far east of the country and the others with ties to Islamists in the capital, Tripoli.

Since launching efforts at dialogue in September, Leon has been unable to bring together leading players from the rival camps.

The United Nations had invited the elected parliament and its Tripoli rival, the Islamist-dominated General National Congress, to the new round of talks in Morocco.

On Feb. 11, Leon held separate talks with officials from both sides in the southern Libyan oasis town of Ghadames – the first between the two bodies since a national dialogue was launched last September.

The U.N. envoy called those talks “positive and constructive,” despite not managing to sit the rivals round the same table.

Analysts believe efforts to bridge the gap will fail so long as the rival armed factions – led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar for the elected government and Fajr Libya for the GNC – do not talk face to face.

The situation has been exacerbated by Libya’s rival factions each having their own regional backers.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are said to support Haftar, while Qatar and Turkey favor Fajr Libya.

Libya’s internationally recognized government plans to exclude Turkish companies from contracts, a Cabinet statement said Monday, effectively banning them from the oil producer.

The government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani gave no reason for the move but has in the past accused Turkey of receiving officials from the rival Tripoli government controlling western Libya.

Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 revolution that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi, with heavily armed rival militias that had fought the longtime dictator’s forces rising to prominence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 24, 2015, on page 9.




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