The largest piece of terra nullius in the world is one step closer to having an internationally recognized government again. The two governments of Libya have signed a UN-brokered agreement to begin building a state in Tripoli, though members of both factions have loudly protested any such deal.
“The agreement will lead to the establishment of a single Government of National Accord and national institutions that will ensure broad representation. It is a critical step in continuing Libya’s post-revolution transition after months of turmoil and uncertainty,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said of the deal on Thursday, calling it “the beginning of a difficult journey” towards establishing a functional state in Libya, years after the collapse of the dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi.
The deal is the first step towards unifying the Islamist General National Congress, based in the capital Tripoli, and the House of Representatives in eastern Tobruk. The House of Representatives was the internationally recognized government of Libya until October, when its mandate to govern expired. With no infrastructure to organize a national election, Libya ceased to have a government following the expiration of that mandate.
Reuters reports that both sides have agreed to a deal that would guarantee members of both be involved in a new internationally recognized government:
A nine-member presidential council will form a government, with the current, eastern-based House of Representatives as the main legislature, and a State Council as a second, consultative chamber. The presidential council will name a new government in a month and a U.N. Security Council resolution will endorse it.
Most of the hardline members of both governments failed to show for the meeting in Morocco, where the agreement was signed, but UN envoy Martin Kobler told reporters “the doors remain wide open” for those who did not participate to choose to engage with the nation-building process in the future. Those not participating in the signing of the deal include the heads of both parallel governments’ legislatures.
In August, a chief negotiator for the House of Representatives, Dr. Abubakr Buera, told Breitbart News that the success of any unity government agreement would depend on international pressure. “Reaching such a deal will basically depend on the general resolve of the international community to do so. Unless pressure is applied to the GNC and their allies, it will be very difficult to hammer down any significant peace deal,” he said, adding that an arms embargo on the House of Representatives had prevented the government from being able to efficiently challenge the Islamic State in Libya.
The establishment of a legitimate Libyan state is a matter of significant international concern, as the absence of consolidation of power in the region has left an opening for jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) to establish enclaves and conquer more territory. While the agreement is seen as a positive first step, its exclusion of a number of Libyan militias and factions independent of both governments and jihadist groups may hinder consolidation efforts. As Al Jazeera argues, “Even if the pact is eventually signed, powerful armed groups on the ground are unlikely to comply with it because they see as it as biased and as harming their interests, observers say.” Among these groups are the Zintan rebels, currently holding one of Qaddafi’s sons prisoner, the Al-Sawa’iq rebels, and a variety of pro-al-Qaeda groups.
The Islamic State has established a “capital” of sorts for themselves in Libya: Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Qaddafi and a coastal city that puts ISIS on the other side of the Mediterranean from Italy. From Sirte, it is believed ISIS has begun training pilots and establishing a new oil hub for its lucrative fuel business. While ISIS has managed to make billions off of stolen oil fields in Syria and Iraq, a new business hub in Libya would significantly expand the terror organization’s economic reach.