World powers will push for sanctions against anyone who disrupts Libya’s electoral process and political transition, according to draft conclusions of a conference they are holding later on Friday in Paris.
The meeting, which will include the leaders of France, Libya, Germany and Egypt, as well as the U.S. vice president, is aimed at cementing world backing for the planned vote on Dec. 24 and efforts to remove foreign forces.
The elections are envisaged as a key moment in a U.N.-backed peace process to end a decade of violent chaos that has drawn in regional powers and undermined Mediterranean stability since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
The votes for a new president and parliament are still in doubt with six weeks to go amid disputes between rival eastern and western Libyan factions and political bodies over the rules underpinning the electoral schedule and who can run.
The wrangling threatens to unravel the wider peace process, which also includes efforts to unify long-divided state institutions and to pull out foreign mercenaries who remain entrenched along frontlines despite a ceasefire.
Draft conference conclusions affirmed “that individuals or entities, inside or outside of Libya, who might attempt to obstruct, undermine, manipulate or falsify the electoral process and the political transition” could face sanctions.
The U.N. Security Council has previously agreed sanctions against Libyan political figures for their role in the conflict. However Russia has only sent lower-level representatives to Paris, raising questions over its backing of any positions agreed there.
The document seen by Reuters takes note of the Libyan electoral commission setting Dec. 24 as the starting date for an electoral process that would extend to a later second-round presidential vote on the same day as a parliamentary election.
The foreign powers want an “inclusive” election – a stance that would likely allow all potential candidates including divisive figures seen as unacceptable in large swathes of Libya as well as serving officials to run.
A French presidential official told reporters at a briefing some actors were ready to seize on any ambiguities to advance their own interests.
“They are obviously waiting to ambush and try to derail the electoral process,” the official said.
Paris initially aiming to have the Turkish and Russian heads of state attending, but Ankara has joined Moscow in sending lower level representatives, perhaps demonstrating the complications with removing foreign forces.
Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group are entrenched alongside the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which was supported in the war by Moscow, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
The former Tripoli government had support from Turkish regular forces in Libya as advisers, and from allied Syrian fighters, the Turkish government has said.
Diplomats have said Turkey was unlikely to act before there were departures from the east.
(Reporting by John Irish; Writing by John Irish and Angus McDowall; editing by Grant McCool and Andrew Heavens)