Libyan PM and commander Khalifa Haftar agree to national election at Abu Dhabi meeting

The UAE has emerged as a major player in the oil-producing country

FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo
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Libya's internationally recognised Prime Minister and the military commander of its breakaway eastern half have met and agreed that national elections are necessary, the UN said on Thursday.

Wednesday's meeting in UAE was the first to be confirmed between Fayez Al Sarraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar since November, when they came face to face in Palermo, Sicily.

It came at the invitation of the UN special envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame.

They agreed "on the need to end the transitional stages in Libya through holding general elections", the UN mission to Libya tweeted.

"They also agreed on ways to maintain stability in the country and unify its institutions."

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “Discussions are ongoing on how to progress this plan for elections.”

The UAE has emerged as a major player in the oil producing-country, the economy and political institutions of which have been in turmoil since long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in 2011.

The UN, supported by western powers, has sought for almost two years to organise elections and end eight years of conflict.

A proposed date of December 10 came and went because of a lack of progress in resolving differences between the heavily divided nation's rival powers.

Mr Al Sarraj's spokesman confirmed a meeting with Field Marshal Haftar had taken place but said no date for elections had been set.

There was no immediate comment from the commander's office.

Mr Al Sarraj leads Libya's internationally recognised government in the capital Tripoli while Field Marshal Haftar is based in the east and allied to a parallel administration.

The UN tweet made no mention of its mission's plan for a national conference to decide on the type of elections, an idea that has met resistance in the east where many see it as waste of time.

Field Marshal Haftar's Libyan National Army last month launched an offensive in southern Libya, capturing the main city in the region and two oilfields.

UN efforts to reach a political settlement and restore stability have so far failed.

The African Union last month called for a global conference in July to try to resolve the conflict in Libya.

It asked the Union's commission "to take, jointly with the UN and the Libyan government, all the necessary measures for the organisation of presidential and legislative elections in October 2019".

The Union's current chief, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, has underscored the need for "African solutions to African problems".