The head of Libya’s internationally-recognized government Fayez al Sarraj has called it quits. His departure comes almost five years after presiding over the government and the Presidential Council that controls most of western Libya.
Al Sarraj Announces His Departure: ‘No Later Than the End of October’
He said in a televised address on Wednesday that he would remain in office to the end of October, until a new presidential council is elected.
“I declare my sincere desire to hand over my duties to the next executive authority no later than the end of October,” Sarraj said, adding that “hopefully, the dialogue committee will complete its work and choose a new presidential council and prime minister.”
Sarraj’s move opens the door for speculation over the future of the political situation in Tripoli, the Libyan capital where his Government of National Accord (GNA) is based, along with the presidential council.
It also raises questions on the future of the Libya conflict as a whole.
Al Sarraj’s resignation declaration comes as Tripoli boils in anger over the GNA’s failure in addressing the problems of its residents and catering to their needs.
Tripoli’s residents complain against electricity cuts and the lack of fuel and basic necessities. They staged a series of protests over the past few days. However, the protests were quelled by armed groups believed to be affiliated to the GNA.
The resignation declaration also comes at a time of major power struggles and rifts within the GNA, especially between Sarraj on one hand and his interior minister Fathi Bashagha on the other.
Bashagha is believed to be pulling most of the strings in Tripoli, being in control of most of the militias and armed groups that control the Libyan capital.
International Power Play?
There is belief that Sarraj’s resignation is part of an agreement between international and regional parties to the Libyan conflict to settle this conflict.
Libya has descended into civil war since the downfall of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. This civil war opened the door for international and regional interference in Libya, namely through support of local parties to the conflict.
Apart from being recognized by the United Nations, the GNA receives support from Turkey which sends arms and mercenaries to Libya.
Turkish support succeeded in reviving GNA hopes for gaining a sizable space on Libya’s political map. It also succeeded in repelling a 14-month campaign on Tripoli and western Libya by the GNA’s rival force, namely the Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls most of eastern and southern Libya.
The LNA, which is commanded by Khalifa Haftar, a Gaddafi era army officer, receives support from a long list of states, including France, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
“Sarraj’s resignation is a reflection of the presence of an international will for settling the conflict in Libya,” said Abdel Qadir Qazit, a member of the Supreme State Council, an affiliate of the GNA.
“There are international arrangements for forming a new presidential council, one in which Sarraj will have no place,” Qazit added.
Sarraj’s resignation comes also while representatives of the GNA and LNA hold talks in Morocco. The talks followed the declaration of a ceasefire throughout Libya by the GNA, on one hand, and the House of Deputies, the eastern Libya parliament, on the other.
Al Sarraj: Libya Was Targeted by ‘Internal and External Conspiracies Every Day’
Sarraj said in his televised address on Wednesday that his government worked in tough conditions.
“The government was the target of internal and external conspiracies every day,” he said.
He said all talks aiming at reaching a political settlement to the conflict in Libya failed because some parties he did not name always wanted war.
This also opens the door for uncertainties on the future of the conflict in Libya after Sarraj’s resignation and whether this resignation can give the go-ahead for further power struggles inside the GNA.
The formation of a new presidential council as a prelude for negotiations between Libya’s rivals to open the door for general elections and then a comprehensive settlement of the conflict were stipulated in an Egyptian initiative for ending the war in Libya.
The Cairo Declaration
The initiative, known as Cairo Declaration, was welcomed by most western powers. Nevertheless, it was rejected by Turkey and the GNA.
Representatives of Sarraj arrived in Cairo a few days ago to hold talks with Egyptian officials on means of ending the conflict in Libya.
There was not a statement on the talks from the Egyptian government, but observers expect them to have focused on pushing the Egyptian blueprint for resolving the conflict in Libya forward.
Nevertheless, some Libyan officials believe Sarraj’s resignation amounts to more than a political maneuver.
By making his resignation conditional on the success of the dialogue committee which holds talks in Morocco now in forming a new presidential council and naming a new prime minister, Sarraj wants to shirk responsibility for either staying in office or leaving.
“So, if the committee fails in forming a new presidential council and naming a prime minister, Sarraj can stay in office,” said Gaballah al Shibani, a member of the eastern Libya parliament.
“This will give him the chance to claim that he does not cling to power, but it is the committee that failed in paving the road for his exit,” al Shibani added.