United Nations Libya envoy Bernardino Leon today (Tuesday) set the end of August as the deadline for agreement on a peace deal, again saying Libya was running out of time.
“We are proposing the parties to work on the coming three weeks and to try to have agreement on the important two points, by the end of August,” said Leon at a press conference upon the opening of the talks in Geneva. The two points are believed to refer to the political and security parts of the process.
Delegations from both the internationally recognised House of Representatives (HoR) and its Tripoli rival the General National Congress (GNC) are attending the talks, which were delayed until Tuesday to allow the latter team to arrive. It is unclear what format the talks will take, with the GNC objecting to the Draft agreement approved last month, which proposes a unified Government of National Accord with the HoR as Libya’s parliament.
The UN has set deadlines before, most recently saying the plan had to be agreed by June 17, the onset of Ramadan, but Leon insisted that this new deadline was crucial.
“It is extremely risky to reach October without an agreement because we will be in a more chaotic situation,” he said. “This is why it is important to have this time-line.”
October will mark the end of the original mandate of the elected House of Representatives, which may undermine the credibility of any agreement signed after that date.
However, it is still unclear whether the GNC will accept the Draft, which gives legislative powers to the HoR, leaving the GNC with a proposed State Council wielding consultative-only powers. GNC delegates had warned they would participate in the talks only if the Draft was changed. They are now reportedly also demanding that the all the HoR’s legislation from when it first met a yaer ago until now is set aside, including the appointment of Khalifa Hafter as head of the armed forces. They say they want “war criminals” to be prosecuted –apparently a reference to Hafter but potentially also a description of militia leaders who have backed the GNC.
Apparently with all this in mind, Leon appealed to the GNC to remain with the Dialogue. “We would like the GNC and all of the Libyans who are participating in the process to give the benefit of the doubt to this process.”
Much work must be done for the new deadline to be met, with little serious input from military commanders on either side who will need to be convinced that any peace deal safeguards their interests.