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Libyan players in Italy for fresh bid to resolve crisis

Updated November 13, 2018

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) greets Libya Chief of Staff, Marshall Khalifa Haftar upon his arrival for a conference on Libya on November 12 at Villa Igiea in Palermo. — AFP
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) greets Libya Chief of Staff, Marshall Khalifa Haftar upon his arrival for a conference on Libya on November 12 at Villa Igiea in Palermo. — AFP

PALERMO: Libya’s key political players meet with global leaders in Italy on Monday in the latest bid by major powers to kickstart a long-stalled political process and trigger elections.

A summit in Paris in May had seen the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar agree to hold national polls on December 10, but that date has fallen by the wayside.

Acknowledging the chaotic political situation since dictator Moamer Qadhafi was deposed in 2011, the United Nations on Thursday conceded elections will not be viable before at least the spring of 2019.

A question mark hangs over Haftar’s crucial presence at the talks in the Sicilian capital Palermo, with Rome on Sunday denying a Haftar official’s statement that Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had paid a lightning visit to his Benghazi headquarters amid reports he might not attend.

A source close to the Italian government could not confirm if the two had been in telephone contact.

“Haftar already succeeding in making the Palermo Conference about the importance of his role in any potential agreement in Libya going forward and reinforcing his position as the key actor in the Libyan crisis,” said Mohamed ElJarh, CEO of research and consulting firm Libya Outlook.

Analysts say the Sicily summit risks being compromised not only by tensions between Libyan factions, but also the competing agendas of foreign powers.

Just as in May, the key Libyan invitees are Haftar, the eastern parliament’s speaker Aguila Salah, GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj and Khaled al-Mechri, speaker of a Tripoli-based upper chamber.

Sarraj urged the international community on Thursday to find a “common vision” for the future of the chaos-hit North African nation.

The GNA says it will use the Palermo talks to lobby for security reforms that unify the army, a constitutionally rooted electoral process, economic reform and an end to “parallel institutions”.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2018

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