Egypt plans direct talks between Libyan rivals

Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry announces plan after Libya's neighbours meet in Cairo to discuss ways to end country's conflict.

The Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, left, and foreign minister Mohamed Siala of the UN-backed Libyan unity government at a meeting in Cairo on January 21, 2017 to discuss ways to end for the turmoil in Libya. Khaled Elfiqi / EPA
Powered by automated translation

CAIRO // Egypt plans to organise direct talks between the leaders of rival Libyan authorities, its foreign minister said on Saturday after hosting a meeting of the war-torn country’s neighbours.

The UN-backed government in Tripoli has struggled to impose its authority, which is contested by a rival administration based in Libya’s east.

“We are focusing our efforts on bringing Libyan leaders together for a direct dialogue, to build confidence and understanding,” Sameh Shoukry said after the meeting attended by his counterparts from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Niger, as well as the UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler.

“The will to organise this meeting is present, its date will be decided according to the commitments of the Libyan leaders,” Mr Shoukry said.

Delegates at Saturday’s meeting warned Libya’s rival factions against trying to settle their differences through military force.

“A comprehensive political dialogue between all Libya parties is the only way out of this crisis,” said a communique issued after the meeting.

It said the delegates “decisively reject” a military solution to the crisis.

Libya has been torn apart by fighting between militias, tribes and two rival governments since an uprising that removed dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Extremist groups such as ISIL have exploited the chaos to gain a foothold in the country.

The parliament-backed government in eastern Tobruk has refused to recognise the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital Tripoli.

Militarily, the eastern administration is backed by the Libyan National Army commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Mr Haftar enjoys the support of several Arab countries, as well an emerging alliance with Russia.

GNA-aligned militias from the port city of Misurata, who led the fight to oust ISIL from the coastal town of Sirte last year, control much of the west.

In the east, Mr Haftar’s forces have been fighting ISIL and extremist groups for more than two years, particularly in Benghazi.

Egypt recently hosted Mr Haftar, parliament speaker Aguila Saleh and the unity government chief Fayez Al Serraj to find “common ground” that could help solve the crisis, Mr Shoukry said before the meeting on Saturday.

“Despite recent victories in the fight against terrorism, in Benghazi and in Sirte, terrorism will never be fully eradicated in Libya until there is a political solution,” he said.

* Agence France-Presse