Libya’s new interim chief holds talks in Benghazi | Libya Information
Mohammad Younes Menfi comes to the key city in the east to speak to politicians, tribal leaders and activists.
The president of the newly elected Libyan transitional government met with dozen of tribal elders, academics and activists in the eastern city of Benghazi, the stronghold of the eastern factions of the divided country, as part of a campaign to promote unity before the national elections in December.
Mohammad Younes Menfi, chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, arrived on Thursday from Athens, where he has lived for three years.
His visit follows a United Nations-sponsored conference last week at which delegates from Libya’s warring factions selected four leaders to lead the nation ahead of the December elections.
The election of the Presidential Council was an important – albeit uncertain – step towards unifying the country and ending one of the persistent conflicts that the Arab Spring left behind.
Libya has fought for nearly a decade since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Since 2015, the North African country, a major oil producer, has been divided between two governments, one in the east and one in the west, each supported by a large number of militias.
In April 2019, Khalifa Haftar, a renegade military commander allied with the Eastern government, launched an offensive to conquer the capital Tripoli.
His campaign failed after 14 months of fighting and last October the United Nations convinced both parties to sign a ceasefire agreement and initiate political dialogue.
Menfi, a diplomat from the east of the country, was selected to chair the Presidential Council, which includes two other officials. The forum also elected Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata, as interim prime minister.
Each member of the three-man council represents a region of ancient Libya: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east and Fezzan in the southwest.
With the appointment of an interim government, months of UN-brokered talks resulted in an agreement to hold elections on December 24th.
“Our goal is to achieve unity and genuine reconciliation and to work with everyone to end the suffering,” Menfi tweeted shortly before his arrival. Shortly after leaving the airport, he met with Haftar at his armed forces headquarters in Rajma village, 27 kilometers east of Benghazi.
During the meeting, Haftar reiterated his support for the new transitional authorities and his support for a “peaceful and democratic change of power” in Libya, according to a statement released by his office.
Haftar had already welcomed the appointment of the new government, calling its leaders “national figures”. Although Menfi is originally from the eastern city of Tobruk, some observers have argued that he is politically allied with western factions, which could undermine the transitional authorities’ ability to represent the political interests of the East.
Menfi had served as Libyan ambassador to Greece for almost a year before Athens ordered his deportation in December 2019 following a controversial shipping agreement between Tripoli and Ankara. He stayed in Greece with his family, but without diplomatic status.