UN hails 'positive' Libya talks in Berlin

UN envoy hails ‘positive’ ending to Wednesday’s talks between rival Libyan factions

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

United Nations Special Envoy to Libya, Benardino Leon, hailed the progress made by the leaders of Libya’s two warring factions on Wednesday in their first face-to-face meeting since the conflict in the country erupted last August.

Speaking at a press conference alongside German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after what he called “positive” talks, Leon said “From all sides, all cities there is a very strong call… We want to celebrate Ramadan in peace.”

"The Libyans have been working together, discussing, interacting. This has not been possible before."

The talks in Berlin came just two days after delegations from Libya’s Tripoli-based General National Council parliament (GNC) and its rival House of Representatives (HoR) gathered in Skhirat Morocco to hold “decisive” talks which were also attended by the municipal council of the city of Misrata, home to Libya’s largest militia.

“Encouraging means that the general opinion of the representatives, and also other people who are not here but are important and influential, has been that this proposal might be acceptable,” Leon said, addressing the press.

“In both camps there are hardliners… But what is important is that the door is still open,” he said emphasising his enthusiasm at the parties reaching a deal before the start of the holy month of Ramadan on June 18, while underlining that the effort was not “a sacred goal.”

Steinmeier stated that the talks in Germany may be the parties’ last chance to agree on a new government and that excuses from either would not be acceptable.

“This proposal constitutes an opportunity. But there will not be many opportunities to follow. It might be the last and only one to prevent Libya from crumbling,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

"We said that the time has come when there are no more excuses. There is no more time to wait for a fifth or sixth proposal from Bernardino Leon."

Libya has been divided between two rival parliamentary bodies since the HoR was founded after a largely boycotted election with a turnout of less than 20 percent, following which armed attempts by HoR-loyal militias failed to forcibly disband the GNC.

The conflict in Libya broke out into widespread clashes when HoR army head Khalifa Haftar launched “Operation Dignity” in an armed bid to capture the cities of Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli from the GNC last August, with clashes in Benghazi remaining heated ever since.

Now operating out of the eastern border town of Tobruk, the HoR enjoys greater international influence as the GNC retains control over most of the country’s internal affairs.

Libya’s former regional allies have grown, with Egypt leading the charge aiming to urge the international community for yet another armed involvement in Libya.

Egypt, once the HoR’s most active backer and ally in air strikes against the GNC, urged the two parties and the international community to "stop wasting time" in forming a coalition government.

"We can't wait for the political solution even though we all back and recommend it. We don't back a military option but we cannot postpone fighting terrorism," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said in a meeting with his counterparts from Italy and Algeria.

The international community began to expedite talks set on unifying the GNC and the HoR after the emergence of ISIS in the city of Derna, around 160 kilometres from the HoR’s headquarters.

Due to the lack of order in eastern Libya, ISIS was able to expand its influence uncontested on the ground, occupying parts of the central city of Sirte where forces from the Tripoli-allied Dawn Alliance’s 166th Misratan battalion continue to clash with the militants.  

TRTWorld and agencies