Representatives of war-torn Libya’s rival governments have agreed on a plan to hold national elections within 18 months in the latest sign of progress toward healing the country’s nearly decade-long rift.
At a summit that began Monday in Tunisia’s capital, 75 representatives of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the Tobruk-based parliamentary government have been discussing plans to establish “free and fair, inclusive and credible” national elections at the parliamentary and presidential levels, according to acting UN envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams.
Williams announced Wednesday that the sides had agreed on a road map for the elections process, calling the achievement a “breakthrough.”
The two sides agreed to a UN-brokered cease-fire in Geneva last month, laying the groundwork for what many observers hope will be an enduring break in the country’s civil war.
Trust-building measures, including talks over prisoner swaps and an end to an embargo on oil exports imposed by eastern Libya’s Gen. Khalifa Hifter, have ensued from the cease-fire.
The UN-sponsored Libyan Joint Military Commission, consisting of five representatives of Tripoli-aligned forces and five from forces aligned with Hifter, are set to meet Thursday to advance talks about pulling fighters and foreign mercenaries back from Libya’s front lines.
Although the UN-backed cease-fire called for foreign forces like Russia’s Wagner mercenaries and Syrian fighters backed by Turkey to leave Libya by the end of January, the talks have yet to come up with a clear mechanism to enforce their departure.
Talks in Tunis continued on Thursday over how the two sides should address failing public services in much of the country, a result of the civil war that began when a NATO-backed uprising overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation, based in Tripoli, hailed this week the return of production levels to one million barrels per day, a result of a détente between the Tripoli-based oil body and Hifter’s forces, who are backed by Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries.
The NOC has said much work remains to sustain the production level. NOC chair Mustafa Sanallah has said the body aims to return production levels to 1.3 million barrels per day by January.
The body assesses Libya has lost nearly $10 billion in oil revenue due to the blockade initiated in January as part of Hifter’s failed campaign to seize Tripoli.