Officials from Libya’s rival governments met for talks aimed at unifying the national budget, another step forward in efforts to end the years-long conflict in the oil-rich North African nation.
A statement by the Tripoli-based finance ministry said the two sides would work on a final draft for the 2021 national budget in the coming days. The draft would be presented to a transitional government established to lead the country to presidential and parliamentary elections late this year.
The United Nations support mission in Libya, UNSMIL, called Tuesday’s meeting an “encouraging and much-needed step”, and urged both sides to prepare the budget in “a transparent manner”.
“The unification and rationalisation of the national budget is crucial to establishing a more durable and equitable economic arrangement,” it said.
Finance Minister Faraj Bumatari of the UN-recognised government based in the capital Tripoli and his counterpart from the eastern Libya-based administration, Muraja Ghaith, attended the meeting.
Also attending was Tripoli-based Foreign Minister Muhammed Tahir Siyala.
Libya is split between a UN-recognised government in Tripoli and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias, as well as regional and foreign powers.
Siyala said a joint team will carry out the agreed-on budget arrangements based on estimated resources this year. He did not elaborate.
Tuesday’s meeting in the strategic eastern oil town of Brega came a month after Libya’s Central Bank approved a single official exchange rate for its currency at 4.8 dinars per US dollar.
The advisory committee of the Libyan political dialogue forum was to meet on Wednesday in Geneva to provide recommendations for resolving disputes over a mechanism for choosing the transitional government, the UN mission said.
The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, urged the committee to put aside the interests of some Libyan and foreign parties and work to reach a deal to form the transitional government. He did not name the parties he was referring to.
The Geneva meeting comes “at a critical juncture”, Norland said, adding the opportunity “will not last forever”.
The forum reached an agreement late last year to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24 this year. However, it failed to break a deadlock on a selection mechanism for the executive authority despite numerous online meetings since face-to-face talks in Tunisia in November.
The UN mission called for “genuine efforts” in the political track of the UN-brokered talks to form a unified government.
The forum is part of the UN efforts to end the chaos that has engulfed Libya since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.