A U.N. envoy held talks on Tuesday for the first time with the head of a self-declared Libyan parliament, which rejects the internationally recognised authorities, as part of efforts to find a solution to the country’s deepening conflict.
Two rival governments, parliaments and chiefs of staff, as well as dozens of armed groups, are competing for power and a share of Libya’s vital energy resources, three years after the violent overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
The U.N. and major powers recognise the House of Representatives, Libya’s elected parliament, and Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. But Thinni and his government have retreated to the country’s eastern fringes since an armed group seized the capital Tripoli in August.
The rival group, mainly from the western city of Misrata, has reinstated the previous parliament, the General National Assembly (GNC), which in turn has appointed its own prime minister Omar al-Hassi.
Hassi and the GNC have been ignored by the world so far.
But foreign powers may have to deal with the new Tripoli rulers after Libya’s Supreme Court declared last week that the House of Representatives, now operating from the remote city of Tobruk near the Egyptian border, was unconstitutional.
There have been questions about the validity of the ruling since the court is based in the capital, which is under the control of the Misrata fighters.
But realities on the ground are changing – the rival government has taken control of key ministries, airports and other state bodies in Tripoli.
Omar Hmeidan, spokesman for the GNC, said U.N. Special Envoy Bernardino Leon had initially not wanted to meet the GNC, but was left with no choice after the Supreme Court ruling.
“The U.N. special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, did not want to meet the legitimate authority of Libya, the General National Congress, but now the U.N. respects the rule of the Supreme Court and here they are meeting the GNC,” he said.
The U.N. confirmed the meeting in Tripoli but omitted the title “GNC president” when mentioning Nouri Abu Sahmain.
“Mr. Leon listened to (Abu Sahmain’s) views and ideas on how to break the stalemate in the efforts to resolve Libya’s current political and security crisis,” the U.N. said in a statement. “The discussions were fruitful, frank and open and in-depth views were exchanged.”
In September, the U.N. launched a dialogue between the House of Representatives and lawmakers from Misrata who had boycotted the assembly, but no progress has been reported publicly.