Libyan unity government talks stutter as HoR strikes Tripoli

Third round of Libyan unity government talks start on shaky ground as Libya’s rival assembly begin new round of air strikes on Libyan capital of Tripoli

Updated Jul 28, 2015

UN Special Envoy to Libya and organizer of the talks, Bernardino Leon, condemned the air strikes on the capital and stated that they served as “negative messages toward the dialogues.” 

“The United Nations condemns in the strongest terms the air strikes that happened this morning on Metiga airport. We have had air strikes before in Metiga,” he said in a statement released by the UN. 

"We have seen negative messages [aimed] towards this dialogue but we have never seen air strikes at the moment when one of the delegations is taking off on its way to the talks.” 

Libya is divided between two feuding parliamentary bodies, the central General National Council (GNC) and its rival House of Representatives (HoR). 

The air strikes occurred early in the morning and targeted Mitiga International Airport as the central administration’s delegation to the Morocco talks was taking off. 

HoR military spokesman Mohammed el-Hejazi admitted that their planes conducted the air strikes. 

"This is part of our campaign against terrorism," el-Hejazi said. 

The first round of talks between the two bodies in Morocco last month was delayed as strikes by HoR planes from Zintan prevented the GNC delegation’s flight from taking off. 

Casting further doubts on the integrity of the HoR’s presence at the talks was the visit to Russia by the body’s prime minister. 

HoR Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni traveled to Moscow as delegates gathered in Morocco, where he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. 

Asking Russia for military aid despite the ongoing UN arms embargo on the country, Thinni said that “[the HoR] would like to ask Russia to take the side of the Libyan people and support the restoration of state institutions and security measures in the country.” 

Thinni pleaded with Lavrov to assist the HoR “within international organizations, to end an embargo on arms supplies to the Libyan army and launch a process to restore the combat readiness of the Libyan armed forces.” 

Talks drive on despite hiccups

Refusing to pledge immediate support for Thinni’s assembly, Lavrov said that Russia was considering “how best to move toward the restoration of territorial integrity” of Libya. 

Regardless of the air strikes and Thinni’s talks with Lavrov, the talks in Morocco continued as Leon said that the UN hoped to reach an agreement over the names of Libya’s new ministers. 

“We expect by the end of this round to have the final version of the best both parties can get, and to have also a serious discussion on what the names could be.” said Leon. 

The talks set on determining a new cabinet for the country come after talks in the Algerian capital ended with all parties agreeing to cooperate on including minority groups in a new government and addressing the country’s growing humanitarian crisis. 

The U.S.State Department released a joint statement with the European powers Monday urging delegates to reach an amicable agreement in both the Algerian and Moroccan stages of the talks. 

“We strongly urge all participants to the dialogue to negotiate in good faith and use this opportunity to finalize agreements on the formation of a National Unity Government and make arrangements for an unconditional ceasefire,” it said. 

Opposing forces loyal to the HoR have been vying to gain control over the country and its institutions in a mobilization dubbed “Operation Dignity” which began in August. 

Khalifa Haftar, the army head of the HoR, launched “Operation Dignity” by besieging Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, where his “Libyan National Army” militia continues battling local forces allied with Tripoli. 

The GNC loyal Dawn Alliance entered the conflict after HoR forces attempted to force the closure of the assembly, aiming to unroot HoR loyal forces from Western Libya. 

Neither group has been effectively able to gain full control of its area of operation nor establish its supremacy over the other after clashes erupted across the country. 

The growing instability and disorder across the country has led to the emergence of ISIS entities which have established themselves in the costal city of Derna and parts of the oil rich province of Sirte, raising greater concern from the international community. 

TRTWorld and agencies