Libya’s internationally recognized parliament voted Monday to reject a United Nations-backed peace deal and unity government, which is widely seen as crucial to stemming the country’s political unrest and armed conflict. Out of the 104 members attending the session in the eastern city of Tobruk, 89 voted against backing the national unity government proposed last week by Libya’s Presidential Council, according to Reuters.
Libya’s long slide into chaos began with the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has exploited the power vacuum to solidify its grip on parts of the oil-rich North African country with around 3,000 fighters currently operating there. Libya has had two rival administrations and parliaments since August 2014, when a well-armed alliance of militias took over the capital, Tripoli, and forced the internationally recognized government to retreat east.
The Tripoli-based National Oil Corp. estimates that Libya has lost more than $68 billion in potential oil revenues since 2013 as a result of 75 oilfield shutdowns and port disruptions, the Financial Times reported. ISIS, which predominantly relies on the production and sale of seized energy assets to fund its operations, has been targeting the country's lucrative oil industry. Two of Libya's largest oil ports have been closed to exports since December 2014, when armed groups attacked them.
Western diplomats have urged Libyans to back the proposed unity government, which is headed by businessman Fayez al-Sarraj and was formed last week under the U.N.-sponsored deal. But the government won’t start operating unless Libya’s internationally recognized parliament approves it with a majority vote of two-thirds plus one, Agence France-Presse reported.
A number of Libyan lawmakers are opposed to the U.N.-backed accord because the unity government, once ratified, will approve top security and military positions. The fear is that powerful army chief Gen. Khalifa Haftar will be removed from his post, a parliament official told AFP Monday. Haftar, as well as Aguila Saleh, head of the internationally recognized parliament, have criticized the deal.
The rival parliament in Tripoli, the General National Congress, also opposes the agreement. Although its support is not officially needed for the unity government to start working, the militia-backed authorities could prevent it from operating out of the capital.