Libya’s al-Sarraj calls for renewed UN talks amid increased tensions

Libya’s al-Sarraj calls for renewed UN talks amid increased tensions

The head of Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj on Tuesday called for a renewal of UN-brokered talks to end divisions in the oil-rich country, amid escalating military clashes and increasing tensions between the main players in the capital Tripoli.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.

Sarraj on Tuesday urged political forces to quickly resume UN-brokered talks to reach a comprehensive road map toward elections.

He said the road map could include amending a landmark UN-brokered agreement to unite the country in 2015 and appoint a new government or agree on a plan for elections in the short term.

“This call comes as state institutions are increasingly divided, and some officials in these institutions have individually made decisions that exceeded their role and their authority,” Sarraj said.

Sarraj was apparently referring to increasing tensions between his government and the Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya and with an anti-graft body. The bank has resisted attempts by Sarraj’s government to use the country’s foreign reserves to stave off financial catastrophe. The central bank holds the country’s oil revenues and billions of dollars in foreign reserves.

Tensions rose to the surface Monday when the audit bureau in Tripoli announced that its administrative director was abducted by a militia tied to the Interior Ministry. The audit bureau is an independent body appointed by the Libyan parliament in Tripoli and is a rare check on the misappropriation of funds.

The audit bureau accused the Interior Ministry of “forcibly disappearing” Reda Gergab to prevent him from uncovering financial irregularities and blocking the ministry’s large and suspicious transactions.

Although the Tripoli-based government was set up by the UN and recognized by Western countries, many of its institutions, including the Interior Ministry, are in reality staffed and controlled by unruly militias.

Justifying Gergab’s detention, the Interior Ministry argued that the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic required the disbursal of urgent funds “to rescue the Libyan people” and that the government is merely “carrying out responsibilities” undermined by the anti-corruption agency.

Sarraj’s move came two weeks after Hifter declared the UN-brokered deal that created the Tripoli-based government “a thing of the past,” and pledged his authorities would move toward creating a new government.

The declaration has threatened to deepen the chasm between east and west Libya and further complicate UN efforts to broker a political settlement to the civil war.

Fighting escalated on Tuesday as Tripoli-allied militias attempted to take a military base held by Hifter forces in Tripoli. Hifter’s Libyan Arab Armed Forces said they repelled the attack.

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