Morocco talks pave the way for new transitional phase in Libya

The U.S.-sponsored talks in the Moroccan town of Bouznika between two Libyan delegations representing the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based State Council are expected to lay the ground for a new transitional phase in Libya.

Experts see the talks as recycling the same leading figures in Libya’s political scene since the start of the Libyan crisis in mid-2014.

Political sources confirmed to The Arab Weekly that the internationally endorsed Bouznika talks will address a number of contentious issues within the framework of the agreements reached during the Berlin conference, with the hope of eventually drawing up a roadmap that would end the current crisis and stop the suffering of the Libyan people.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said, during the opening session of the consultations, that the Libyan dialogue held in Bouznika “may be a prelude to agreements that end the Libyan crisis”.

The Speaker of the Libyan Parliament Aguila Saleh and the Chairman of the State Council Khaled al-Mishri visited Rabat at the end of last July by official invitation from Morocco, but they did not meet. They instead held separate meetings with a number of senior Moroccan officials.

This first round of Libyan-Libyan talks devoted to consultations on activating the political process under the auspices of the United Nations came after intense political and diplomatic moves that followed the announcement a few days ago of a generalised ceasefire in Libya.

The talks are taking place in the town of Bouznika, on the Atlantic coast south of the Moroccan capital Rabat, and not in the Palais des Congrès in Skhirat where the previous Libyan talks, that ended with the signing of the Skhirat Agreement in 2015, had been held.

Libyan sources told The Arab Weekly that these talks, which will continue for two days, are the result of Moroccan efforts under the auspices of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, to push towards a political solution to the Libyan crisis.

The roadmap that will come out of these talks is expected to set the dates for presidential and legislative elections according to the provisions set forth in the Libyan constitution and to develop mechanisms to manage the remainder of the transitional phase, in addition to drafting a plan for addressing the security and economic crisis to be discussed in the Libyan-Libyan talks scheduled to be held in Geneva next week.

Despite the positive atmosphere created by these talks, with the participation of the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Libya, Stephanie Williams, there were still divergent opinions and reactions to the discussions inside Libya. Overall, the talks were welcomed with caution amid fears that they would be limited to just issues related to “dividing the spoils and distributing posts”.

The Libyan representative from Al-Jafara, Ismail al-Sharif, did not hesitate to welcome these talks and consultations. “In general, we bless every Libyan-Libyan meeting that would dispel the concerns of the political parties, and build up trust,” he said on the phone to The Arab Weekly.

He considered that the general framework for these talks and consultations is “to bridge the gap between the Libyan parties in order to lay the groundwork for a phase of appeasement that may enable the sowing of the seeds of trust and thus contribute to healing the deep wounds caused by the continuing conflict”.

On the other hand, he expressed his hope that during these talks “the focus will be on ways to overcome the current stage with all the suffering it has produced, and not on sharing spoils through the distribution of posts”.

It was reported earlier that the participants in these talks will address the development of mechanisms to change the figures that will take over the leadership of the sovereign institutions, agreeing to form a new presidential council consisting of a president and two vice-presidents, and the formation of a new government on the basis of regional quotas that takes into account the reality of the three Libyan regions.

According to a number of parliamentary representatives contacted by The Arab Weekly, these mechanisms will keep the parliament in Tobruk and the State Council as the sole legitimate representatives in Libya, during a transitional period of no less than five years, in addition to distributing responsibilities for the management of key government and state institutions based on regional affiliation.

These positions include the Administrative Control Authority, the Audit Bureau, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya, the Attorney General, the Supreme Court, the Elections Commission, and other security and military positions, especially the positions of the General Chief of Staff of the Army and the General Intelligence Services.

Ibtisam al-Ribai, another member of the Libyan Parliament representing Al-Jafara, considered that the Bouznika talks may constitute a prelude to breaking the political deadlock, and indicated in a statement to The Arab Weekly that “in general, any opportunity for dialogue is a good one even if it is not well-planned, because Libya has gone through a period of war and violence that has closed off every gate for dialogue while the people ended up paying a high price for it”.

Ribai stressed that “all negotiations, whether in Morocco or in Geneva, are pushing towards the formation of a government and dividing posts”, noting at the same time that “there is no ideal solution in Libya, and the quota system is already in place, but just moving to the stage of a unified government is the beginning of the solution”.

Along these cautious welcoming stances, other reactions rejecting the talks in Morocco emerged. MP Ali al-Takbali, for example, did not hesitate to voice his refusal to hold a political dialogue between the Parliament and the Supreme Council of State which represents the Islamists, and to warn against its results that “will bring a new catastrophe” to Libya, according to him.

Takbali considered that the members of the parliament delegation participating in these talks “will not be able to deal with the hypocrisy of the Muslim Brothers and their leader Khaled al-Mishri, who is going to be participating in them”, at a time when several political circles do not hide their fear that, during these talks, “the subversive Turkish role in Libya”, which has shifted the balances of the conflict and prolonged the crisis, will be ignored.

(A version of this article was originally published by The Arab Weekly and reproduced by permission.)