A cursory agreement has been reached between the representatives of Libya’s primary political rivals, a major step towards resolving the political chaos that has occurred in the war-torn country.
Brokered by Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano and Italian ambassador to the U.S. Armando Varricchio, the agreement was reached during talks between Ageela Saleh, president of the house of representatives in Libya’s east, and Abdulrahman Sewehli, president of the state council in the west.
Specifics are unclear at this point, but representatives of Mr. Sewehli and the state council said that “there was an atmosphere of friendliness and openness,” and further talks are needed to “stop the bleedings as well as [ensure] the return of displaced persons.” Further talks are scheduled for this week.
Once allied against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, rival political groups broke into armed conflict following his ouster, sending Libya into its current lawless state. In the security vacuum, elements of the Islamic State and other Islamist extremists have formed militias and seized city centers along Libya’s central coast.
There are currently two major political entities in Libya. Headquartered in Tripoli is the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, it is a western-backed entity that lacks real control over the country at this point. In the east, supported by the relatively powerful military contingent led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is the house of representatives, which has been the subject of U.S. and U.N. sanctions in the past for stalling political agreements.
Italy has a vested interest in Libya’s political and economic success. The ongoing migrant crisis uses the instability and chaos inside Libya to push thousands of African migrants onto dangerously overloaded boats and onward towards Italy, where thousands of people have died attempting the dangerous journey.
In addition to the migrant crisis, terrorist cells have proliferated throughout Libya, threatening the security situation in nearby Mediterranean nations.
Last week, in a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni insisted that Europe and the U.S. play a more central role in stabilizing the political situation in Libya. President Trump disagreed, saying “I think the United States has, right now, enough roles. We’re in a role everywhere. So I do not see that. I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS. We’re being very effective in that regard.”
Featured Image courtesy of United Press International