Libyans want an end to country's divisions and feuding politicians to hold elections, UN envoy says

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Libyans from rival regions and all walks of life are fed up with the country’s divisions and want political players to end their years-long impasse and agree to hold national elections, a key step to peace in the oil-rich north African country, the U.N. deputy representative said Wednesday.

Stephanie Koury told the U.N. Security Council that she has been meeting political leaders, civil society representatives, academics, women’s groups, military leaders and others in the country’s rival east and west to listen to their views. She said there is consensus that the current “status quo is not sustainable” – and the political process needs to advance toward elections.

Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. In the chaos that followed, the country split, with rival administrations in the east and west backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.

The country’s current political crisis stems from the failure to hold elections on Dec. 24, 2021, and the refusal of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah — who led a transitional government in the capital of Tripoli — to step down. In response, Libya’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister who was suspended. The east is now governed by Prime Minister Ossama Hammad while the powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter continues to hold sway.

Koury, the top U.N. official in Libya since the resignation of special representative Abdoulaye Bathily in April, said many Libyans she spoke to signaled the importance of a “pact” or agreement that would affirm, among other things, the rival parties’ respect for the outcome of elections. They also expressed deep concern at the country’s divisions and parallel governments, and provided ideas on a roadmap to elections, she said.

“While institutional and political divisions keep deepening, ordinary Libyans long for peace, stability, prosperity and reconciliation,” Koury said. “Resolute and united action to advance a political process is needed by Libyans with the support of the international community.”

In February, Bathily warned the country's feuding political actors that if they didn't urgently form a unified government and move toward elections Libya will slide into “disintegration.”

The three African nations on the council – Sierra Leone, Algeria and Mozambique joined by Guyana – said in a joint statement Wednesday that “the Security Council must remain committed to an inclusive Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process facilitated by the United Nations … for the holding of national elections.”

The four countries called on the rival political players “to move from the entrenched institutional and political positions, resolve their differences, build consensus and facilitate the holding of national election.”

U.S. deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said the United States also continues to firmly support the U.N. political mission’s efforts “to bring Libya closer to unlocking a viable process toward long-overdue elections.”

“Progress toward greater military integration remains key to reaffirming Libyan sovereignty and preventing Libya from becoming enmeshed in regional turmoil,” he said.

Turning to Russia's actions in Libya, Wood told the council the United States recently sanctioned “Russian state-owned enterprise Goznak for producing counterfeit currency globally and printing more than $1 billion worth of counterfeit Libyan currency, which exacerbated Libya’s economic challenges.”

Libya is under a U.N. arms embargo, and Wood said the United States also notes “with particular concern the recent reports of Russian Federation naval vessels unloading military hardware in Libya."

Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Taher El-Sonni, who represents the internationally recognized government in the west, stressed that national reconciliation is the only way to rebuild social cohesion and trust between the rivals, unite the country and pave the way for elections.

“We are tired and fed up from the stalemate and the vicious cycle that we have been going through for decades now,” he said. “We are tired and fed up from being lectured on what to do and what not to do,” and from the Security Council’s inaction.

“We are tired and fed up to use Libya as a proxy for certain countries and regional powers for selfish greedy battles, some of which have colonial ambitions,” El-Sonni said.

He called on the Security Council “to leave Libya alone” and let the people decide their own future and “take their destiny in their own hands.”

Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press