August 5, 2015
Four years ago, Libyans joined together to seize the moment to overthrow a dictator. It was a moment of pride for Libyans and for those outside the country who supported them in seeking freedom from Qaddafi and Qaddafism.
Unfortunately, since then, the country has largely been unable to take advantage of the opportunity to rebuild and has instead deteriorated into civil conflict, economic crisis and terrorist violence.
Now, many Libyans representing a range of political and geographic backgrounds, including local leaders, members of civil society, and political figures from opposing sides of the conflict, have come together and made real progress in negotiations towards the formation of a unified, national government. This new proposed transitional government offers the Libyan people a clear, if still difficult path forward to peace and stability.
After 10 months of UN-brokered talks, the majority of Libyan political delegates initialed on July 11 in Shkirat, Morocco, a political agreement that would form this Government of National Accord. Libyan political leaders are set to meet again soon to negotiate further details and the agreement's implementation. In the interest of Libya's common future, Libyan decision makers need to join in supporting this agreement now.
In my work as the U.S. Special Envoy for Libya, I have heard Libyans from across the country say that the agreement to end the conflict and unify the government now is essential. Meanwhile, at the local level, different Libyan political and military forces have negotiated local ceasefires and some are already taking action to combat alleged ISIL-affiliated groups in their communities. These locally-driven solutions are evidence that Libyans will work together to promote their collective security and recognize that stability must be created at the local as well as national level.
Many Libyans are working to bridge differences and to realize the democratic aspirations of the revolution for which so many sacrificed so much. These efforts reflect the common desire to live in a unified country with other Libyans who reject violence and seek a civil, democratic state committed to human rights and the rule of law.
To effectively stabilize Libya, any future central government must address the needs of Libyans from all sides, deliver security and economic benefits to all parts of the country, keep Libya's core economic, financial, and energy institutions whole.
The current negotiated political agreement meets these goals. Its proposed unified government would be inclusive. It would acknowledge the electoral legitimacy of the Libyan House of Representatives and would preserve it as the country's sole legislative body for a year, extendable to two, pending on the country’s adoption of a Constitution and a permanent system of governance. It also would allow some people who were members of Libya's former General National Congress, as well as other constituencies throughout the country, to have a consultative voice during this important transitional period. And it would end the battle over government legitimacy that has led to damaging fractures in eastern and western Libya, which have failed to provide Libyans peace, prosperity, or security.
The formation of a new national government will also preserve Libya's crucially important core institutions, namely the Central Bank of Libya, the National Oil Company, and the Libyan Investment Authority. These institutions have provided economic stability since 2011 amid escalating political turmoil, but they remain fragile, and increasingly targeted by efforts to divide them and endanger their independence in the process.
Factional efforts to seize control of Libya's independent institutions endanger Libya's economic stability. Their governance needs to be resolved through the UN-facilitated Libyan process and implemented by the new Government of National Accord. Unilateral changes by any faction to their operations or efforts to wrest control of them by force, or by legal gambits, domestic or foreign, create damaging risks to Libya’s resources, as we are already seeing in litigation between competing factions seeking control over the Libyan Investment Authority.
The unimpeded operations of Libya's Central Bank is especially central to preserving Libya's economy in this period. Fighting over its control puts that capacity at risk. Moreover, as a result of falling oil prices, divided government, and unrealistic budgeting by Libya's last unified government, Libya continues to rapidly burn through its reserves and a humanitarian crisis looms.
For all of these reasons, we and other friends of Libya urge all Libyans to join together urgently to find ways to protect the Central Bank and Libyan resources for the Libyan people as a whole. In the meantime, we will continue to oppose any effort by any faction to take advantage of the current transition period through any unilateral effort to seize control.
The economic crisis and threat of growing terrorist violence reinforce the reality that there is no military -- or for that matter, court-based -- solution to Libya's divided government and fractured institutions. A political solution must take place now.
The political agreement is a Libyan agreement, negotiated by Libyans for Libyans. The international community, including the United States, stands ready to support Libyans as they finalize negotiations and implement the agreement. We are also prepared to help a Government of National Accord and its new institutions function effectively.
We look to Libya's leaders to seize this moment, to finalize the hard work of building a unified government that can stabilize the country, to secure civil order, and to combat the extremism and economic deterioration that threaten the common future of Libyans and their neighbors alike.