Libya Prime Minister Plans to Resign by End of October

Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj announced Wednesday that he intends to step down by the end of October for a new government to unite the war-ravaged North African state, as the capital descends into political infighting and protests over corruption.

Sarraj, who heads the Tripoli-based government recognized by the United Nations, led the defense of the capital with Turkish military assistance against an offensive by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who’s backed by Egypt, Russian mercenaries and the United Arab Emirates. Both sides agreed to a truce in August that’s designed to help propel the rivals and their foreign backers toward an accord that will reunify a country split between rival administrations.

Sarraj’s intention to resign, first reported by Bloomberg on Tuesday, came after rivalries emerged among an uneasy alliance of politicians and militias in Tripoli that had united to stop Haftar’s offensive. He’s also faced a protest movement against corruption and poor services in the OPEC member state, which has been wracked by violence since a NATO-backed revolt ousted leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011. Its oil fields have been closed on Haftar’s orders since January.

The rival Libyans plan to meet next month in Geneva to agree to a new presidential council and elections. Sarraj called on them to speed up their dialogue and appoint a new prime minister so he could hand over power by the end of October.

Unruly Government

“I wish them luck,” he said in a prerecorded televised speech. “On this occasion, I announce to all my sincere desire to hand over my duties to the coming executive authority by no later than the end of October, given that the dialogue committee finishes it work and chooses a new presidential council.”

In the meantime, Turkey’s foreign minister said late Wednesday that his country was inching closer to an agreement with Russia on how an end to the Libyan conflict should take shape.

Sarraj had initially planned to announce his resignation this week and stay on in a caretaker capacity until the Geneva talks, officials told Bloomberg. His speech on Wednesday, in which he laid out all the hurdles he’d faced, spelled the end of his five-year leadership over an unruly government that seldom managed to control more than disparate parts of the country.

“This opens up the Government of National Accord internally for rivalries as to who will take over and who will represent western Libya” in the Geneva talks, said Emad Badi, a Libya expert and senior fellow with the Atlantic Council. “He was always kind of a lame duck, this just cements it. Now he’s set a timeline for being replaced.”

His resignation would be welcomed by Haftar and his regional backers. Turkey, however, has seen him as a partner who delivered on granting it access to gas-rich parts of the Mediterranean.

In western Libya, Sarraj has been accused by rivals of protecting militias that have infiltrated security services. His supporters say the militias need to be tackled patiently to avoid bloodshed.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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