The leader of Libya’s Islamist anti-government, based in Tripoli, could expel the UN special envoy tasked with negotiating a peace agreement in Libya. As Reuters reports:
[Islamist leader Omar al-Hassi’s] government said it could restrict [U.N. special envoy Bernadino] Leon’s entry to Libya, limiting any role he could play in talks, unless he recognizes a ruling by the Supreme Court.“Mr Leon, as I said several times before, might be declared an unwanted person, persona non grata and banned from visiting Libya because of his bias,” Mohamed al-Ghirani, the foreign minister, told Reuters.He said Leon had disrespected Libyan law by refusing to recognize the ruling declaring the House of Representatives, which was elected in June and is based in the east like [Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni], unconstitutional.
The move follows the bombing of Tripoli’s sole remaining airport by the Tabruk-based eastern government, which is internationally recognized. This complex relationship between an elected government that’s recognized by the world but not by Libya’s supreme court and an Islamist anti-government that controls the capital obscures the increasing reality that “Libya” as a unified country no longer seems to exist. While the pro-government forces under General Haftar have made advances in Benghazi, the decision by those forces to bomb Tripoli’s airport, a city they have little hope of capturing militarily, seems to mark an escalation of the conflict. As a result, Omar al-Hassi has declared “war” and “confrontation” with the elected government.Libya, however, is not merely fighting with itself in isolation. The Tripoli anti-government is broadly backed by Turkey and Qatar while Egypt and the UAE support the elected government in Tobruk. Removing the international UN mediator will only further entrench the conflict. It’s remarkable that the areas currently controlled by the respective forces in Libya conform almost exactly to the historical Ottoman provincial boundaries. These provincial demarcations are not merely lines on a map but reflect significant cultural and regional boundaries that have repeatedly come to the fore over the past century and clearly still exist in Libya today. There may be quite a bit of fighting still to come between the factions. At the very least, this week’s developments will make it even harder to put Libya back together again.