By Tim Nanns
In a move that is likely to crush UN Libya Envoy Bernardino Leon’s hopes of producing an agreement before Ramadan, the internationally-recognised Libyan government in Tobruk rejected on Tuesday a UN draft proposal to form a unity government, Reuters reported.
The government also barred its delegates from travelling to Berlin on Wednesday to continue the peace talks. Earlier on Tuesday, Leon had spoken of “a general sense of hope, […] even optimism” on the sidelines of the talks currently commencing in Morocco.
On Monday night, the UN delegation handed out a new draft proposal laying out the details on what a Libyan interim government might look like. The proposal also included the merger of militias into the regular army, as well as incentives for militiamen to return to civil life.
The UN mission has the backing of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, who also wanted to join the meeting in Berlin. The peace talks even won the endorsement of the G7, who demanded “bold political decisions” in a declaration, but also offered “significant support” for the transition.
Leon originally aimed to broker an agreement before Ramadan, but the withdrawal of the Tobruk government severely threatens that plan.
The draft proposal intends to keep the Tobruk government’s parliament as the legitimate legislative power during the transitional period, thus favouring it over the rival General National Congress (GNC) in the capital Tripoli.
This recent development comes after reports earlier on Tuesday that groups affiliated with “Islamic State” took over a power plant near Sirte, and confirmation from US officials that the militants also kidnapped 88 Eritrean Christians.
Libya has been engulfed by chaos and unrest since the ouster and killing of Muammar Gaddafi. In 2014 the elected parliament had to flee to Tobruk, along with the government, leaving Tripoli to the Islamist Libya Dawn militias that installed the old GNC as the parliament.
In recent weeks, “Islamic State” and affiliated groups were able to quickly gain ground in Libya, capturing the city of Sirte along with its airport and military airbase. Neither the Tripoli nor the Tobruk government is seriously able to halt their advance since a UN arms embargo has been in place since 2011.