France hosts Libyan peace talks with rival leaders

The heads of the opposing sides in Libya's crisis are planning to meet in Paris for talks to find a way out of the impasse

Self-styled Libyan National Army's chief Khalifa Haftar (L) and Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (R)
Self-styled Libyan National Army's chief Khalifa Haftar (L) and Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (R)

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is to convene face-to-face talks in Europe between the leaders of the rival Libyan factions in an attempt to bring peace and political stability to the country.

Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj will meet with Khalifa Haftar, the powerful military commander based in the country's east, on Tuesday near Paris, the French presidency said. 

"France intends, through this initiative, to facilitate a political agreement" between the two rivals as the newly appointed UN envoy for Libya, Ghassam Salame, takes office, the statement said.

French officials hope Sarraj and Haftar can agree on a joint declaration, "simple but constructive," an official in the French president's office said. The official could not be named in keeping with presidential policy.

Among other things, the text would say, it is hoped, that there can be no military solution to the Libyan crisis. It would also lay down the principle of a cease-fire — except for fighting Islamic militants, the official said.

The two Libyan leaders have been unable to agree a new power sharing compromise to reunite the country

The meeting on Tuesday will be the first between them since they first met for aborted talks in the United Arab Emirates in May. Those talks initially appeared to come close to an agreement, only for both sides to step back from signing any joint document.

Previous talks set for Cairo did not go ahead because Haftar refused to meet Sarraj. There has been little sign of the US administration under Donald Trump taking any direct role in Libya’s future, leaving Europe, especially Italy, largely responsible.

Italy has previously taken the lead in efforts to bring peace to its former North African colony, throwing its weight firmly behind Serraj and viewing Haftar with great scepticism.

However, Frances diplomatic angered Italian officials.

"Macron wants to be much more involved in Libya. That is fine, but he has brushed us away. We were not consulted," said a diplomat in the Italian foreign ministry, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"There is a lot of anger over this," the diplomat added.

Opposition politicians accused Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's government of allowing the French to push Italy out of the driver's seat when it came to Libyan diplomacy.

"The Libyan meeting organized by France ... shows the total failure of (Italy's) foreign policy," Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the rightist Brothers of Italy party, wrote on Twitter.

"(This has) taken away our nation's traditional role of primary intermediary with Libya," she added.

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