Libyan PM, eastern commander agree national election needed: U.N.

February 28, 2019

By Ulf Laessing

TUNIS (Reuters) – Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister and the military commander of its breakaway eastern half have met and agreed that national elections are necessary, the U.N. said on Thursday.

Wednesday’s meeting in United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the first to be confirmed between Fayez al-Serraj and commander Khalifa Haftar since November, when they came face to face in Palermo, Sicily.

They agreed “on the need to end the transitional stages in Libya through holding general elections,” the U.N. Libya mission (UNSMIL) said in a Tweet.

“They also agreed on ways to maintain stability in the country and unify its institutions.”

The UAE has emerged as major player in the oil producing-country, whose economy and political institutions have been in turmoil since long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

The U.N., supported by Western powers, has sought for almost two years to organize elections as a way of ending eight years of conflict. A proposed date of Dec 10 came and went date due to lack of progress in resolving differences between the heavily divided nation’s rival powers.

Serraj’s spokesman confirmed a meeting with Haftar had taken place but said no date for elections had been set. There was no immediate comment from the commander’s office.

Serraj heads Libya’s internationally recognized government in the capital Tripoli while Haftar is based in the east and allied to a parallel administration.

The U.N. gave no further details about the Abu Dhabi meeting. After similar encounters it has engineered it often releases pictures showing hand shakes between the participants. It made no such picture available on Thursday.

The U.N. Tweet made no mention of a UNSMIL plan to a national conference to decide on the type of elections, an idea which has met resistance in the east where many see it as waste of time.

Haftar’s forces, the Libyan National Army (LNA), last month started an offensive in southern Libya, capturing the main city in the region and two oil fields.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing, Ayman al-Warfalli and Maha El Dahan; editing by John Stonestreet)

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