By Edith M. Lederer, AP
UNITED NATIONS–Members of Libya’s two rival parliaments agreed to set a target date of Dec. 16 to sign a U.N.-sponsored agreement on forming a national unity government, the new U.N. envoy to the crisis-wracked country said Friday.
Martin Kobler told the U.N. Security Council in a video briefing from the Tunisian capital that some 40 lawmakers agreed at a two-day meeting in Tunis that ended earlier Friday that the text will not be reopened.
“Libya is in a race against time,” Kobler said. “Its very social fabric, national unity and territorial integrity is directly endangered by the forces of extremism and terrorism.”
He stressed that the Islamic State group is actively seeking to extend its influence beyond areas it now controls and a national unity government is critically important to help restore security and to mobilize international support to counter the extremists.
Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The oil-rich country has been torn between an internationally recognized government based in eastern Tobruk and an Islamist-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
The United Nations and many countries concerned about Libyan crisis have redoubled efforts to get the rival government to accept the power-sharing agreement since both parliament rejected the deal in October.
Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, representing the recognized government, told the council “the time has come to sign the agreement. I hope it will take place by Dec. 16.”
It wasn’t clear, however, whether the agreement will be signed by the target date.
Kobler warned the council that the “two political sides are beginning to show dangerous signs of internal fragmentation.”
Both Kobler and the Security Council gave strong support to a high-level meeting on the Libyan crisis in Rome on Sunday co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Italy’s foreign minister.
The goal is to press Libya’s feuding parties to form a unified government and address the growing Islamic State threat.
Dabbashi warned that if there is no power-sharing agreement, experts believe the Islamic State group could seize “the golden crescent of oil” next summer.
The Security Council welcomed the Dec. 16 target date and expressed “grave concern” at the expansion of Islamic State extremists and their threat to Libya and the region.
Council members “stressed that a unity government must be formed swiftly to counter this threat” and they again threatened sanctions against those impeding the restoration of peace and stability.