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Paris hosts Libyan rival leaders in landmark meeting

A leaked draft talks statement says that Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and his main rival, General Khalifa Haftar, will commit to a ceasefire and elections “as soon as possible”.

25 July 2017, 3:34pm
France is hoping to “facilitate a political agreement” between Khalifa Haftar (left) and Fayez al-Sarraj (right)
France is hoping to “facilitate a political agreement” between Khalifa Haftar (left) and Fayez al-Sarraj (right)
French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting talks late this afternoon between Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and his main rival, General Khalifa Haftar, in a landmark meeting all three are hoping to benefit from.

Officials at the Elysée Palace say Macron will be hoping to “facilitate a political agreement” between the head of Libya's unity government and the powerful Egyptian-backed commander when they meet at a chateau in La Celle Saint-Cloud, outside the French capital.

The Paris talks follows a first contact between Sarraj and Haftar in Abu Dhabi in May. That meeting was seen as a tentative step towards reconciliation in Libya, which has been mired in conflict and chaos since the 2011 uprising, when longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by rebels supported by a French-led NATO air campaign.

Currently, Libya numbers two rival parliaments and three governments (the latest was formed in UN-brokered talks and was meant to replace the other two).

So far, Haftar has rejected the authority of Sarraj’s UN-backed government as his forces gain ground in the east of the country supported by Egypt and United Arab Emirates.

But, this month, Sarraj set out a new political roadmap for his war-torn country, including the scheduling of presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2018. There is hope that weapons could be set aside and a political solution could be reached.

Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Elysée officials set out a more concrete goal for the talks.

“We want to see a joint declaration tomorrow between the two main actors,” officials said. “That would be the first time that they accept to agree on a vision of diplomatic transition for the months to come.”

A leaked draft talks statement says that the two leaders will commit to a ceasefire and elections “as soon as possible”.

The statement says al-Sarraj and Haftar will also commit to hold presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible.

French officials at the talks stressed that the document was one of several working versions being circulated ahead of the meeting.

The 10-point version being circulated says that only a political solution can end the crisis and it backs the Skhirat Agreement, agreed in 2015 with UN backing, as the basis for a political process in Libya.