New Libyan Peace Deal Could Ease Government Instability
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
An agreement was signed in Libya this week. The country's been in a state of chaos and suffering ever since the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Two rival governments emerged in the East and West of the country, and in the midst of those divisions, ISIS found a foothold.
This week, members of those dueling parliaments signed an agreement brokered by the United Nations to form a unified government. And the hope is to end the civil war and to stop the gains of ISIS. Claudia Gazzini is a senior Libya analyst at the International Crisis Group, and she joins us now from Rome. Thanks so much for being with us.
CLAUDIA GAZZINI: Thank you.
SIMON: How do we set up these two rival parties?
GAZZINI: You know, Libya's been divided for the past year and a half. Essentially, these are political divisions. In the East of the country, the parliament and the government that was there were the more liberal-leaning side of the Libyan political spectrum, joined by pro-autonomy movements in the East. And in Western Libya, both the parliament and its government were more nationalist in their ranks, and they also had some Islamist backing.
SIMON: The agreement doesn't have full support on either side. And I gather your group, the International Crisis Group, has said that insufficient backing will - I'll read a quote, "condemn it to irrelevance."
So do you find this agreement irrelevant?
GAZZINI: Well, fundamentally, what the U.N. has been doing for the past year is to try to bridge the gap between these two rival parliaments and these two rival governments. The idea was to reunite what is currently a divided Libya. However, the agreement that was signed in Morocco the other day falls short from that in the sense that it does not enjoy the majority support of the two respective parliaments. And actually those negotiators who have signed the deal represent a fraction of the country's constituencies.
So we're concerned that by pushing this agreement through without more support on the ground and, more importantly, without proper security sector arrangements, this government cannot take seat in Tripoli and will be due to irrelevance.
SIMON: Ms. Gazzini, it doesn't sound as if you think this agreement is much more than a piece of paper.
GAZZINI: Well, actually, this agreement serves a purpose, and this is why they're going forward with this. They're concerned with Islamic State in Libya, and many countries think that only through an invitation of a government - whatever government, whatever support it enjoys - that is essential in order to start contributing to supporting the fight against IS, so they need a government to request international support in the fight against IS. A weak government is better than no government.
SIMON: You, I'm told, go to Libya pretty frequently. Can you tell us what a lot of Libyans you've met and with whom you've spoken say about their future, what they would like to happen?
GAZZINI: Most Libyans today are in a state of despair. They see the economy of the country plummeting. Most of them no longer receive salaries on time. They have to wait three, four months to receive it. You know, prices have gone up. So everybody is living badly, really. And everybody wants an end to this localized civil war. And everybody wants an end to the division of the country, and every Libyan that I meet tells me that they want a unity government, but they don't necessarily want this one. So they want to be part of the process that has led to the choosing of the government, but they don't feel that they're there quite yet.
SIMON: Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group in Rome, thanks so much for speaking with us.
GAZZINI: You are very welcome. Thank you.
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