World Leaders in Paris Lend Libya Support Before Vote
(Bloomberg) -- World powers gathered in Paris to discuss ways to stabilize Libya stressed the importance of next month’s pivotal presidential election and threatened sanctions against anyone who tries to undermine the vote.
“The Libyan transition must be completed. The elections must take place in the best possible conditions,” said President Emmanuel Macron on Friday at a press conference after the event, adding that the parties involved have committed to recognize the results, whatever they are.
The meeting was co-chaired by France, Germany, Italy, Libya, and the United Nations. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were among the high-level international and regional officials taking part.
Mohamed el-Manfi, head of Libya’s presidential council, and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah also attended.
In a closing statement, the participants:
- Stressed the important of “an inclusive and consultative electoral process,” and of holding the ballot on Dec. 24 as planned
- Confirmed their respect and commitment for “the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity” of Libya, which sits on Africa’s largest oil reserves
- Urged the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces
- Warned that persons and entities, inside or outside Libya, who attempt to obstruct, undermine, manipulate or derail the electoral process and political transition will be held accountable and may face sanctions, in line with the Security Council resolution 2571
Libya has lurched from crisis to conflict to civil war since the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 in a NATO-backed uprising -- with Islamist extremists attempting to exploit the turmoil and migrants embarking on often-fatal treks to Europe to flee it.
Libya had been split since about 2014 between rival administrations, each backed by opposing foreign powers and militias. A United Nations-supported cease-fire roughly a year ago calmed tensions, helped a rebound in oil production from almost zero and paved the way for the formation of the current unified government. Power struggles, however, threaten to cast a pall over the elections.
Macron described the declaration as “ambitious” and said the next six weeks will be “decisive.”
“We know that many challenges remain. The health system is weakened. Food insecurity is growing. The most vulnerable parts of the civilian population, particularly the internally displaced and refugees, are the most exposed to humanitarian violations and violations of human rights,” Macron said.
Other challenges include disagreements over election laws and sporadic infighting among armed groups.
On Thursday, Khalifa Haftar, the general who has a powerful role in Libya’s oil-rich east, committed to send 300 mercenaries back home. Macron said they would leave in coming weeks.
“It is just a beginning,” Macron said. “Turkey and Russia must also withdraw their mercenaries and armed forces without delay, as their presence is threatening the stability and security of the country and of the whole region.”
At least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries arrived in Libya over the years from countries including Russia, Syria, Turkey, Sudan and Chad, according to UN estimate, amid a tussle for influence.
It was Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi who came up with the idea for Friday’s gathering.
France’s involvement in the Libya crisis has at times chafed with Italy, where successive governments have wanted a dominant role because they’ve been most affected by migrant flows and disrupted energy supplies from their former colony.
Observers are awaiting to see if Dbeibah, Haftar, and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late autocratic leader, will enter the presidential race, though each could face problems due to election rules. A list of candidates is set to be released soon.
Parliamentary elections are to take place nearly two months after the Dec. 24 ballot, along with a second round of the presidential vote. The final results must be announced simultaneously, the leaders said in the statement.
“This conference has demonstrated the convergence and the unity of the international community in support of Libya,” Macron said.
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