A Possible Turning Point for Libya

By Padraig O'Hannelly.

Two significant developments at the weekend give grounds for optimism in an increasingly troubled Libya: the apparent resolution of the ports dispute at Brega; and the announcement of a 'national dialogue initiative' to try to chart a way forward for the country.

On the ports issue, there is hope that the re-commencement of shipping from Brega will provide a positive example for the various port disputes, but of course this remains to be seen. In the meantime, the reduction in oil sales is strangling the economy, and this benefits nobody.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's announcement on Sunday of a commission comprising 'personalities from civil society', who will debate the issues of the future constitution, national reconciliation, displaced persons, disarmament or security, could help to heal the wounds between the factions. Importantly, members of the commission are to be unpaid volunteers.

In the absence of a second house of parliament, this could be a useful forum for debate among different interest groups, but marshalling and directing that debate towards constructive ends will be challenging. One hopes that this is where the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which is backing the plan, will make a valuable contribution.

If handled correctly, this could mark a turning point in Libya's post-revolution development. We wish it every success.

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