Rival Libyan leaders in France to seek way out of chaos

2017-07-25 20:44
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Paris - Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj holds French-brokered talks Tuesday with Khalifa Haftar, the rival military commander who controls the east, to try to end the chaos in the conflict-ridden country.

French President Emmanuel Macron has organised the talks but his office has stressed that it has modest expectations of the meeting to be held in a chateau just outside Paris.

The aim is to persuade the two sides to at least outline a roadmap for an end to a conflict that has plunged the oil-rich country into chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The two leaders will be asked to agree to a ceasefire among other commitments, a French diplomatic source told AFP.

Macron will welcome Sarraj and Haftar before the newly appointed UN envoy for Libya, Ghassam Salame, chairs the talks, but the French president will make a statement at the end of the day.

It is the second time that Sarraj and Haftar have met in the space of three months after they held talks in Abu Dhabi in May. That meeting made little progress.

Battle for control 

Dozens of armed groups have vied for control in Libya in the power vacuum created by Kadhafi's fall.

Sarraj's Government of National Accord (GNA), despite support from the United Nations, has sought to unify powerful factions, but has struggled to assert its authority since it began work in Tripoli in March 2016.

A rival administration based in Libya's remote east - with which Haftar is allied - refuses to recognise the GNA.

Jihadist groups have profited from the turmoil, seizing the Mediterranean coastal city of Benghazi three years ago, although Haftar's forces drove the extremists out earlier this month.

Another diplomatic source involved in the talks said there was scepticism about whether the military strongman was prepared to share power in Libya.

"We have to hope that when he signs something, he will keep his word," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Human traffickers have exploited the chaos to boost their lucrative but deadly trade, and Libya has this year become the main springboard for migrants seeking to reach Europe in often flimsy and overloaded boats.

Since January, more than 100 000 migrants have made the perilous voyage from Libya, with 85 000 arriving on the shores of Italy, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

About 2 360 people have drowned this year attempting to make the journey, the IOM says.

Sarraj this month laid out a new political calendar, scheduling presidential and parliamentary elections for March 2018.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Monde newspaper in June that Libya was "a priority" for Macron and said there was "a security risk because of the trafficking of all kinds, including humans" from Libya.

The veteran Le Drian has made a regional tour to drum up support for an end to the Libyan crisis, appealing in particular to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for assistance.

Read more on:    france  |  libya  |  north africa

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