Libya factions close to peace agreement

21 April 2015

UN announcement comes amid increasing chaos  

  • Rival factions have penned a draft accord
  • Critics say the UN is unlikely to be able to broker a final agreement
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has executed around 30 Ethiopians in Libya
  • Europe is considering sending in troops to safeguard oil infrastructure

The rival factions fighting in Libya have penned a draft accord which is “very close to a final agreement,” according to the UN envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon.

Speaking to reporters on 19 April after talks in the Moroccan resort of Sakhirat, Leon said that preparations for the first direct meeting between the groups were being made with an eye on another round of talks in Morocco that would take place in two weeks.

Leon stressed that any deal would need the approval of the militia groups participating in the ongoing conflict.

“This will be the first time the armed groups, the people who are holding weapons and who are fighting on the ground, might meet,” he said.

Finding a peace deal that satisfies all parties will be difficult according to those close to Libyan political developments.

“I expect nothing to be agreed. The progress that has been made in Morocco is minimal,” said one Libya-watcher based in Tripoli.

Over the last 24 months the violence in Libya has broadly coalesced into two rival fighting forces: those that support the elected government based in Tobruk, and those that support the Islamist-led government that currently controls Tripoli.

Both groups are struggling to gain control of the country’s oil revenues, and each side is supported by units of informal militias as well as more formal groups of armed forces.

Complicating the conflict over recent months has been the rapid expansion of the jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), which is opposed by both of Libya’s rival governments.

On 20 April, a video purportedly made by the group was published appearing to show the execution of around 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya.

In the video a group of around 15 men are shown being beheaded on a beach and another group of approximately the same size is shown being shot in the head by militants in an area of scrubland.

The Ethiopian government has confirmed that that those executed were Ethiopian citizens.

“The Ethiopian government is deeply saddened by the barbarous act committed against our innocent nationals,” the government said in a statement.

It added that it is attempting to confirm the identity of those who were killed and determine the exact number of executed citizens.

The execution of the Ethiopians is the latest in a string of atrocities committed by Isis in the region over recent months.

On 15 February, the group published a video purporting to show the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, prompting air strikes by the Egyptian government.

The group also claimed an attack on Tripoli’s five-star Corinthia Hotel on 27 January, which killed nine people including five foreigners.

Isis currently controls territory in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, the eastern Islamist stronghold of Derna and the city of Sirte, which lies 450km east of Tripoli.

Amid the worsening chaos, the EU is considering sending warships to the Libyan coast to clamp down the smuggling of oil and arms, according to confidential documents seen by the news agency Reuters.

It is also considering the deployment of EU soldiers to secure oil installations in the country to allow oil operations to resume.

In March output was a quarter of what it was before the country’s 2011 revolution, mainly due to disruption caused by fighting between forces affiliated with the country’s two rival governments.

Low oil revenues are at the heart of a looming financial crisis in the country that could result in a large-scale humanitarian disaster.

Libya’s foreign currency reserves declined by 20 per cent to $100bn over the first eight months of 2014. This rapid decline prompted the World Bank to warn in January that Libya’s reserves could be depleted within four years if the country’s instability continues.

Currently the central bank uses the country’s financial reserves to pay salaries to the public sector as well as subsidies on food and fuel.

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