U.N. Urges Rival Libyan Factions to Avoid Violence After Tripoli Clashes

The United Nations (U.N) has underlined the need to refrain from any provocative acts after clashes erupted in Tripoli recently when the rival government attempted to enter the Libyan capital.

U.N. envoy, Stephanie Williams reiterated “the critical need of maintaining calm on the ground in the current circumstances and avoid any provocative actions and rhetoric.”

Following the clashes, Williams had stated that “Conflict cannot be solved with violence, but with dialogue and mediation, and to this end, the good offices of the United Nations remain available to all parties who believe in helping Libya find a genuine, consensual way forward towards stability and elections.”

Meanwhile, rival Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed by the east-based House of Representatives, said on Wednesday that he would seat his government in the central city of Sirte, after clashes forced him to abort his attempt the previous day to bring his Cabinet to Tripoli.

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The city of Sirte is located on Libya’s Mediterranean coast and sits halfway between the country’s east and west, serving as a link between them and the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals. The crucial and strategic city is controlled by east-based forces of putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a Bashagha ally. Bashagha’s move to Sirte is likely to deepen the political split in the already divided country and intensify the crisis.

The idea of seating the Libyan government in Sirte was floated in the 2020 talks that ended the latest major bout of fighting in Libya. More recently, influential Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh – also an ally of Bashagha – called for him to operate from Sirte rather than attempt to set up his government in Tripoli.

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Oil-rich Libya has been wracked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. It has been split for years between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different foreign governments.

Bashagha, a former interior minister, was named prime minister by the country’s east-based parliament in February. But his rival, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, based in Tripoli, in the country’s west, has refused to step down, insisting he will hand over power only to an elected government.

Dbeibah was appointed last year in a U.N.-led process to lead the country through elections in December that never took place.

Bashagha attempted Tuesday to seat his government in Tripoli, in a move that resulted in clashes with militias allied with Dbeibah just hours after Bashagha and his Cabinet ministers entered the Libyan capital. At least one man was killed and five others wounded in the clashes, authorities said.

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Both prime ministers blamed each other for provoking the violence, which raised fears that the country could once again return to civil war after more than a year of tense calm.

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