Prospects Of Peace In Libya: Is The End In Sight?

Prospects Of Peace In Libya: Is The End In Sight?

Now that the United States has recognised the opposition to Colonel Gaddafi's regime as Libya's "legitimate governing authority", and the UN's special envoy to Libya has been asked to present a peace deal to the Libyan leader within a fortnight, a peaceful end may be in sight.

At the same time violence continues in the region, with the death of ten rebel fighters in an attack on a government-held town tempering hopes for peace.

At a one-day summit attended by Nato and other world leaders in Istanbul, the UN envoy, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, and foreign ministers from over 30 Western and Arab countries were hosted by the Turkish foreign minister. All agreed to formally recognise the rebels as the legitimate Libyan authority.

A statement released from the summit on Friday stated that Gaddafi "must leave power according to defined steps" and called for "the formation of an interim government to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition of power".

The decision was announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She added: "The TNC [Transitional National Council] has offered important assurances today, including the promise to pursue a process of democratic reform that is inclusive both geographically and politically."

The TNC responded with gratitude as it expressed its "respect to the people of the United States", which it called "the protector and promoter of democracy and freedom across the world".

A peace deal could allow Gaddafi to stay in the country after stepping down. However, Gaddafi himself swiftly rejected the discussions on Friday. Addressing a televised rally, he bellowed: "Trample on those recognitions, trample them under your feet...They are worthless".

In another worrying sign, both China and Russia, who have been critics of the Nato bombing campaign from the outset, were absent from Istanbul. Their continued reluctance might be a worrying sign for the prospect of long-term recognition for the Libyan rebel council in the United Nations, if and when that time comes.

There are still hopes that after months of stalemate this recognition of the rebels could finally precipitate a decisive, peaceful outcome.

Recognising the TNC formally not only gives the Council more credibility, but also will mean that some of the billions of dollars of Libyan assets frozen in US banks could be released to the rebels.

But while the violence continues, the prospect of peace is little comfort for many Libyans. Ten rebel fighters were killed by land mines and shells in an attack on a strategic eastern oil town on Friday, reported the Press Association.


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