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Libyan delegates start talks in Geneva for transitional leaders

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Libyan delegates stand during the national anthem at the opening of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum at an undisclosed location near Geneva to choose new temporary executive authorities, February 1, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Libyan delegates have come together for UN-backed talks in Switzerland to choose new interim leaders who will oversee preparations for elections scheduled to take place by the end of the year.

The participants at a five-day meeting in Geneva would vote next week to pick a three-person presidential council and a prime minister.

They will pick from 24 candidates for the three council posts. Twenty-one people are vying for the post of premier.

The 75-member Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which was set up in line with UN efforts to end the chaos in the country, is working to get the warring sides to agree on a mechanism that would lead to a transitional administration following presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2021.

Many fear competition for the abovementioned posts could yet trigger new fighting, unraveling a ceasefire that has largely held since October 2020.

Stephanie Williams, the acting UN envoy, told the delegates on Monday that the temporary leaders should strive toward national reconciliation and restoration of democracy.

“Reaching this far and achieving this progress in the political dialogue has been an arduous journey fraught with challenges,” Williams told the gathering Monday. “Indeed, a year ago, this would not have been possible.”

“This decision was greeted with the overwhelming approval by your compatriots, and it is a commitment that must be honored at all costs,” she added.

“The Libyan people are behind you. They support you and they want you to succeed. They need you to succeed. Don’t let them down.”

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the UN-recognized government based in the capital Tripoli, and another camp based in the eastern city of Tobruk, backed militarily by armed rebels.

The country descended into unprecedented chaos last year after the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) under rebel commander Khalifa Haftar moved toward Tripoli to seize the city. They were repelled by government forces.

The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.

The rivals agreed during talks in Geneva in September 2020 to hold elections within 18 months and restructure the government.

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