Libyan lawmakers were set to sign a disputed UN-sponsored agreement on a unity government yesterday despite a warning from the heads of rival parliaments that the deal has no legitimacy.
World powers have urged the country’s warring factions to break a political deadlock that has allowed jihadists and people-smugglers to flourish since the fall of dictator Muamer Gaddafi in 2011.
A group of Libyan parliamentarians were due to sign the UN-backed deal in a ceremony in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat.
It followed a gathering in Rome of a US- and Italian-led group of world powers and regional players that called on the two sides on Sunday to lay down their arms and back the new unity government.
But Nouri Abusahmein, who heads the militia-backed General National Congress in Tripoli that is not recognised by the international community, said on Wednesday that the signatories did not represent the parliaments.
“Whoever has not been commissioned by the GNC to sign or initial a deal on its behalf is, and will remain, without legitimacy,” he said before the legislature in the capital.
A government such as that proposed by the United Nations “is not the subject of consensus and does not even guarantee the minimum required to ensure its effectiveness”, he added.
On Tuesday in Malta, Abusahmein met Aguila Saleh who heads the internationally recognised parliament based in Tobruk in the east near the border with Egypt.
It was the first time they had met since the rival administrations were formed in 2014.
At a joint news conference, both men said that those who sign the agreement represent only themselves.
Even so, Martin Kobler, the UN envoy to Libya, said the Moroccan ceremony would proceed as planned.
“A large number of Libyan participants and high-level international participants, including many foreign ministers, have committed to attend,” Kobler said in a statement on Wednesday.
At the beginning of October in Skhirat, delegations from both sides approved a draft agreement negotiated under the auspices of the UN, but it was later rejected by their parliaments.
Abusahmein and those MPs who support him are not against an agreement, but say they want more time to negotiate it.
On December 6, members of the two bodies launched an alternative process in Tunis by signing a “declaration of interest” on a unity government, and this process is backed by the two parliament heads.
The country has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of long-time dictator Gaddafi.
On Wednesday, Kobler met the recognised government’s controversial army chief General Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar said that he was not satisfied with the UN deal, which stipulates that if the rival authorities fail to agree on who should head the army within 10 days, a new military chief will be appointed.
But he said he would not “boycott” the agreement.
Many members of the Tripoli parliament oppose Haftar.
Kobler for his part said that there must be a unity government before an arms embargo on the country is lifted.
The recognised government says the embargo is hampering the battle against IS, which seized control of the coastal city of Sirte in June.
Kobler said that there might be “external assistance” in fighting extremism in Libya if an eventual unity government requests it.