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Rival forces in Libya agree to cooperate to protect water network

The UN considers this initiative "a very significant step towards unifying the military institution and the country"
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PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   Exploration teams discovered four huge basins with estimated capacities of each ranging between 4,800 and 20,000 cubic kilometres

Libya continues to be immersed in a slow process of pacification after the ceasefire agreed in October 2020, which was the first step towards political transition. This pact called for the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya within 90 days. This resolution led, in turn, to an agreement on elections and the appointment of a new transitional government.

In March Libya took over the new institutions created 'ad hoc' for the implementation of the political transition. UN Security Council members gave the green light to the Interim Presidency Council and the Interim Government of National Unity "as entities charged with leading Libya towards national elections on 24 December". For its part, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) established in November the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), a 75-member group convened to unblock the political deadlock. However, initial progress on the roadmap has stalled in recent weeks.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar

Threats to stability remain. The main challenge is to define whether to hold direct presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously or to allow the elected parliament to choose the president. Another question is the eligibility requirements for candidates.

On the latter point, the UN ordered the Libyan parliament to accept the constitutional basis for elections and adopt electoral legislation by 1 July, giving the country's High National Electoral Commission sufficient time to prepare before the vote. However, disagreements on constitutional matters engendered the political deadlock for the adoption of the legal framework.
 

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AFP PHOTO / LNA WAR INFORMATION DIVISION - The head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)

Therefore, it remains unclear whether a constitutional referendum will be held before the elections. In any case, General Khalifa Haftar has flatly rejected the referendum as it would prevent him from running for president. According to the draft, dual citizens and those on active military service are not eligible to stand for election, a requirement Haftar does not fulfil as he is a US national.

In order to contribute to stability in the North African country, the Libyan army and General Khalifa Haftar's militia, despite their marked differences, have agreed to secure the Artificial River pipeline system, which transports around 6.5 million cubic metres of fresh water daily to the main cities from huge wells in the southeast and southwest, according to a UN communiqué. In the statement, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) stressed that these efforts represent a "very significant step towards unifying the military institution and the country".

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PHOTO/FILE - Libya is one of the sunniest and driest countries in the world

Water supplies were cut off in mid-August by the authorities for ten days following warnings from an armed group threatening to sabotage the network if Abdallah al-Senoussi, former head of Gaddafi's intelligence services, detained in a Tripoli prison, was not released. The Great Man-Made River project was one of Gaddafi's main constructions during his four decades in power and allows the transfer of underground water from the desert to the country's cities and agricultural areas.

The joint force to recover the network will consist of the 166th Army Brigade and the Tareq Bin Ziyad Brigade, led by one of Haftar's sons, according to a statement from the 166th Brigade. For his part, the UN special envoy to Libya, Jan Kubis, expressed hope that the creation of a joint force between rival forces in Libya "will pave the way for further confidence-building measures" between the two sides in the framework of "reunification of institutions".