Despite growing political wrangling that threatens to derail a year-long peace process, world powers will meet in France on Friday to push for elections in Libya by the end of the year and to support efforts to remove foreign forces from the oil-producing country.
The election date in Libya was set by a UN-backed roadmap adopted last year, which also established an interim unity government to replace rival administrations in the east and west that had been at odds for years.
The process is viewed as an opportunity to end the decade of instability and warfare that followed the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that toppled former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and has since drawn in regional powers in a threat to wider Mediterranean stability.
With disagreements over the election’s legal basis, major factions on both sides may reject the vote, potentially resulting in another violent schism.
During a press conference ahead of the meeting, a French presidential official told reporters that while the elections were approaching, the situation remained fragile. According to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, some actors were ready to seize any ambiguities to advance their own interests.
“They are obviously waiting for an opportunity to ambush and derail the electoral process,” the official said.
According to diplomats, a final communique may warn potential spoilers that they may face sanctions.
Despite Paris’ initial goal of inviting the Turkish and Russian heads of state, both Ankara and Moscow have sent lower-level representatives, possibly demonstrating the difficulties of removing foreign forces.
Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group are stationed alongside the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which was backed in the war by Moscow, the UAE, and Egypt.
According to the Turkish government, the former Tripoli government received advice from Turkish regular forces in Libya as well as from allied Syrian fighters.
According to diplomats, Turkey is unlikely to act until there are departures from the east.
Following a request from France, Libya’s eastern-based forces announced on Thursday that they had agreed to repatriate 300 foreign mercenaries from their area of control.