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MALTATODAY 13 March 2022

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NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 13 MARCH 2022 5 5th District: Birzebbugia, Ħal Farruġ, Kirkop, Safi, Mqabba, Qrendi, Żurrieq 9th District: Għargħur, Msida, Swatar, San Ġwann, Kappara, Swieqi, Madliena, Ta' Xbiex Follow Stefan on all social media platforms "The choices we make reflect our commitment to a better future for our country and our families" Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds 7968 1171 Birżebbuġa Office 40, Triq il-Brolli Żurrieq Office 4, Triq it-Taħħan little to prevent the approach of Bashagha's 'Government of National Stability' (GNS) mili- tias from Misrata, Zliten, and Warshef-fana. Although pro-GNS militias did not manage to reach Tripo- li, Bashagha is trying to secure a permanent presence in Tripoli to take control of the National Oil Corporation, the Central Bank and the Oil Ministry, his only guarantee to access finan- cial resources. The Libyan parliament swore in Fathi Bashagha as prime minister a week ago, ousting Ali Dbeibah's interim government, formed in the summer of 2020 with a mandate to unify state institutions divided between rival governments in east and west. An election process collapsed in December shortly before the scheduled vote, and rival fac- tions have argued over the right path forward. The House of Representatives took the eastern side during the civil war, and declared Dbei- bah's government had expired and announced a new transi- tional period under Bashagha's new government, with no elec- tions until next year. Bartolo pointed out to coun- terparts that with two parallel governments claiming legit- imacy, there can only be one government until elections are held. "If this ambiguity is not clari- fied and adequately addressed, the undermining of the stabili- ty and the deepening divisions in Libya remain a very real risk and the return to violence and conflict very likely," diplomatic sources told MaltaToday. "The whole issue is now even more complicated due to the new geopolitical reality creat- ed by the Ukraine war, as the Russian Federation has open- ly declared its backing for and recognition of the Bashagha proposed government." Bartolo joined Italian and British foreign ministers in call- ing for a joint committee from the House of Representatives and the High State Council, to establish a consensual consti- tutional basis that can lead to national elections as soon as possible. They also referred to the Unit- ed Nations' call "on all actors to refrain from taking any actions that could undermine stability and deepen divisions in Libya." They said the House of Repre- sentatives' vote fell short of the expected standards of transpar- ency and procedures, and even included acts of intimidation prior to the session." Bashagha establishing a pres- ence in Tripoli with his allied militias would likely spark clashes in the city. The inten- sity and duration of the clashes would depend on how strong Bashagha is militarily, and on the local and international re- actions to his strategy. With key access points to the city under solid Government of National Unity (GNU) control, a significant violent escalation in Tripoli remains unlikely be- cause the GNS does not have enough armed support in the city. Dbeibah has stated multiple times that he will not hand over his authority to Bashagha. Un- less an agreement is reached between the GNU and the GNS, new skirmishes between forces sup-porting the two gov- ernments cannot be excluded. Rapidly deteriorating rela- tions between Russia and the West as the war in Ukraine rag- es, will also raise questions as to whether Russia could use pri- vate military companies like the Wagner Group in Libya, to put pressure on Western interests. As Russia faces a united Eu- rope supporting Ukraine, in- creasing instability on Europe's southern flank could be ap- pealing to Moscow, which is why Libya's renewed division threatening the UN-brokered political process, worries Eu- rope. The Libyan parliament swore in Fathi Bashagha (right) as prime minister a week ago, ousting Ali Dbeibah's interim government, who is resisting attempts to force him out, claiming the voting process was vitiated

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