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MFA Paolo Gentiloni in New York

Western leaders at Rome meeting confident Libya peace deal to be signed on Wednesday

World leaders meeting in Rome on Sunday urged Libyan dialogue parties to rally behind a UN-brokered peace deal that is meant to be signed on Wednesday, highlighting the threat that the Libyan conflict poses to its people and to the world.

Diplomats from the United States, Europe and the Mediterranean region met Sunday on the third day of the MED 2015 Conference ”Mediterranean Dialogues’’ in Rome to discuss solutions to the Libyan conflict with members of the Libyan national dialogue. In a joint statement the world actors pledged financial and security support if a joint political body was formed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and UN Special Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler called for an “immediate, comprehensive ceasefire in all parts of Libya” and welcomed the announcement of dialogue members that the Libyan political agreement will be signed on 16th December in Skhirat, Morocco.

The escalating threat of the so-called Islamic State was top of the agenda for the international conference pushing for the deadline.

“We cannot allow the status quo in Libya to continue – it is dangerous for Libyans, and now because of the increase of [IS] presence it is dangerous for everyone, “ Kerry said.

“We refuse to stand by and watch a vacuum filled by terrorists,” he added.

The conference included representatives from 17 nations including joint bodies such as the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations. Fifteen representatives from Libya’s warring Libyan factions also attended the meeting.

The United Nations is pushing for a final agreement this week. Newly-appointed UN Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler said a political agreement would be signed on Wednesday, a decision taken after consultations held in Tunis this week with representatives of Libya’s two rival legislatures – the internationally-recognized House of Representatives in Tobruk and the General National Congress in Tripoli – as well as members of the broader dialogue including political party leaders and municipal counsellors.

But there are fears that those who agreed to the latest deadline will not be able to bring their respective houses on board.

Deputy GNC President Saleh al-Makhzum, who headed the GNC delegation in Tunis, was later disowned by the GNC President’s first deputy Awad Abdessadeq, who said Makhzum had acted without the authorization of the GNC presidency.

On Saturday GNC President Nuri Abusahmain sent a message to Italian Secretary of State Paolo Gentiloni informing him that only Awad Abdessadeq was authorized to attend the Rome Conference on behalf of the GNC and that Makhzum represented only himself.

Moreover, the Libyan Revolutionaries’ Operations Room – a coalition of militias in western Libya with close connections to hardliners in the GNC – issued a statement warning Makhzum against signing the agreement, which it called an “attempt to override the will of the Libyan people”. Aside from Makhzum, the GNC delegation in Rome consisted of GNC members Mohamed Maazab and Belgassem Gzit, as well as Ashraf al-Shah, who has been advising the GNC in the national dialogue.

Meanwhile, voices from the HoR have said that the team representing the parliament in Tunis and Rome is also not legitimate as it had officially been dissolved and there had been no official vote to replace it. The team was headed by Imhamed Shueib and included Saleh Hamma, Suleiman Suiker and dialogue advisor Taher El-Sonni.

Over the past week a number of developments have muddied the Libyan political scene and the national dialogue, which stalled in October after neither of the two rival legislatures was able to decide on whether to accept the UN’s peace proposal.

The main change has been a parallel dialogue track outside the UN framework launched by a small group of HoR and GNC members and later espoused by what appears to be a majority in the GNC. The main feature of the so-called Declaration of Principles signed a week ago in Tunis is returning to Libya’s former Constitution, dating back to the days of the monarchy. As part of this parallel dialogue, which has been dismissed by the international community, a meeting was supposed to take place between the presidents of the HoR and the GNC. This meeting – pitted to take place in Malta on Saturday- was cancelled at the last minute after the HoR delegation failed to turn up, leaving Nuri Abusahmain stranded, according to the Times of Malta.

The UN is still hoping to get both rival legislatures to sign off on the peace deal. But given the urgency of the situation and international pressures, it seems increasingly possible that UN Special Envoy Kobler may press ahead without the official backing of the houses.

“Our plan A is to [obtain] a resolution from GNC and HoR on the political agreement and the unity government,” HoR member Abdelmenim Bakur said on Libya Channel’s 9pmDebate yesterday. But observers think the UN’s Kobler is also thinking of an alternative plan.

Western diplomats told Reuters that if the HoR and GNC do not endorse the deal, the alternative would be to gather signatures from lawmakers in each camp and independent dialogue members, as a way of bypass opponents who would later be urged to join.

“In the end, we will have a date for signing this. Kobler is aiming for something before Christmas,” an informed Western diplomat told Reuters. “But there is uncertainty about how wide spread support is on the ground, and about the security situation in Tripoli.”

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