A United Nations special envoy trying to broker a deal ending the political crisis in Libya has announced the formulation of a draft agreement, saying it is now up to the country's two rival governments to sign off on it.
U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon, who has been meeting for weeks with representatives from the rival governments, announced the development late Monday in the Moroccan city of Skhirat, where the latest round of talks occurred. He did not offer details of the take-it-or-leave-it deal, but praised negotiators from both sides for their efforts.
"So our part of the process is now finished," Leon said of the U.N. role. He also said he hoped the factions will sign a final accord before October 20, and said he is not willing to accept any new proposals or additions to the draft.
There was no immediate comment on the U.N. announcement from Western governments by early Tuesday.
Last week, Leon warned that his announced September 20 deadline was the “very last moment” for Libyans to come together.
VOA reported earlier that Leon was seeking an immediate cease-fire between forces loyal to the country’s internationally recognized government and Islamist militants in the east of the country, who represent one group in the many faceted conflict.
The deal also envisioned the various competing factions in Libya forming a government of national accord in a complex arrangement that some critics argue is unworkable.
The U.N. mission in Libya condemned the latest military escalation in Benghazi, which started Saturday when forces under the command of General Khalifa Haftar launched airstrikes against Islamist militants, some of whom are allied to Islamic State extremists.
The mission argued “the timing of airstrikes clearly aims at undermining the ongoing efforts to end the conflict” just when negotiations have entered “a final and most critical stage.”
At least six people were killed and 10 wounded when the fighting redoubled on Saturday.
Mohamed Hejazi, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, said the general’s Operation Dignity forces had launched a new offensive against Islamist positions in Benghazi, which has been engulfed by fighting for more than a year.
More than 100,000 people have fled Benghazi in the past few months.
The fighting raging in and around Benghazi is just one front in a multi-factional struggle which at its heart is pitching two parallel governments — a mainly Islamist upstart Tripoli-run government and an internationally recognized administration now in exile in the eastern Libyan towns of Tobruk and Beida — against each other.
The Islamist militants in Benghazi are aligned with neither of the parallel governments, although some elements in Tripoli harbor sympathy for them and are deeply opposed instinctively to any action undertaken by the anti-Islamist Haftar.
Western governments have been backing the U.N.-led peace deal to usher in a power-sharing deal.
And in a joint statement, the U.S. and European Union cautioned, “This escalation of violence underscores the urgent need to complete the political dialogue process as soon as possible.”