SKHIRAT: The United Nations opened a new round of consultations with Libyan politicians on Friday aimed at ending the country’s crisis, but delegates from the internationally recognized parliament were absent.
Western leaders support the U.N. talks as the only way to end the turmoil in Libya, where two rival governments and armed factions are battling for control of the North African state and Islamist militants have gained ground in the chaos.
The goal of negotiations is to achieve a unity government and a lasting ceasefire and put Libya’s democratic transition back on track four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. But both factions face internal splits over the negotiations.
Fighting also continues between forces of the recognized government based in eastern Libya and the rival administration of an armed group that seized control of the capital Tripoli last August.
“U.N envoy Bernardino Leon has started discussions with delegates present here in Skhirat,” a spokesman for the U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) told journalists.
Only delegates from the Tripoli-based parliament and independents were present, he said. The recognized government said it needed another week to prepare to meet Leon.
In a sign of tough talks ahead, representatives of the Tripoli faction on Friday asked the U.N. for its official position on Khalifa Haftar, a former Gaddafi ally who has been named army chief for the internationally recognized government.
Haftar began a self-declared war on Islamist militants last year and has gathered support in the east. But his critics in Tripoli say he is a Gaddafi loyalist whose presence damages chances of a peace deal.
“We have asked the U.N. envoy for an official position on the appointment of a war criminal as the commander of the Libyan army,” said Omar Hmeidan, a spokesman for Tripoli’s parliament.
Friday’s session was the second round of UNSMIL-sponsored consultations in the Moroccan coastal town of Skhirat, after several rounds in Geneva and elsewhere.
Since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, two rival brigades of former rebels who once battled side by side against the long-standing leader have since fallen into internecine fighting for control of Libya and its oil wealth.