After more than a year of negotiations, representatives of Libya's two rival governments signed an agreement to form a national unity government.
The spirit of cooperation among Libyans of every creed, which pulled them together in opposition to Moammar Gadhafi and his brutal regime, quickly evaporated after the fall of their common enemy. The divisive political struggle that followed destabilized the country and Libya descended into factional strife and violence.
Eventually two rival governments emerged--the internationally-recognized House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk, and in Tripoli in the West, the General National Congress. The discord and lack of a united, effective central authority created a security vacuum that was, and is, exploited by violent extremists and human smugglers.
Clearly, the inability of the two sides to come to terms and establish a Government of National Accord spelled potential disaster for Libya and its people. After over a year of intensive negotiations supported by the U.S. and UN, the two sides signed a final version of this document in late December.
The United States has long pushed for an accord that would unify the many factions that pull the country in different directions. Libya needs a strong central government that will establish the rule of law, promote a just, independent judiciary and develop strong institutions with the capacity to improve the country's stability, security and flailing economy.
"[The United States] salute[s] these courageous Libyans who stand ready to rebuild a united Libya and who are determined to move the country forward," said Secretary of State John Kerry in a written statement.
"All Libyans have a role to play as the political transition continues. I urge all Libyans to support this final agreement and to unite behind the Government of National Accord," he said.
"The United States and the international community are ready to support the implementation of the Political Agreement and to provide full backing for the unified government, as well as technical, economic, security, and counterterrorism assistance."