Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

FM participates in global conference on Libya, meets officials

Haftar who leads a self-styled Libyan National Army has repeatedly threatened to attack Tripoli Haftar who leads a self-styled Libyan National Army has repeatedly threatened to attack Tripoli
Steven Clarke | 14 November, 2018, 22:54

Eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar went into a meeting with his UN-backed rival Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj and other leaders, an Italian official said, ahead of more inclusive roundtable talks.

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We urge Libyans and the global community to seize this opportunity by engaging fully with the United Nations to promote a more inclusive process, with a view to creating the conditions for national elections in the course of next year.

Despite Haftar having said he would not participate in the conference, photos released by the Italian government showed him with Serraj and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte embracing and smiling in a three-way handshake.

"The General Command of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces denies local and global reports about the commander, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, participating in the conference held in the Italian city of Palermo on Libya", the army's information office said in a statement.

The conference in the Sicilian capital of Palermo began Monday with a private dinner hosted by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte before the plenary sessions Tuesday.

More than seven years after long-serving dictator Moammar Gaddafi was toppled by Western-backed rebels with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air support, no central authority has asserted control over oil-producing Libya and armed groups control the streets.

Italy, the former colonial power which has large oil and gas interests in Libya and has been working to halt people-smuggling from the Libyan coast across the Mediterranean, had called the summit in an effort to reconcile Libya's competing factions.

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In an interview provided by his media office, Haftar said he wanted to meet with African leaders in particular to discuss migration.

Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and it is now governed by rival administrations in the east and west with both relying on the support of militias.

His self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) said on Tuesday that he had travelled to the conference only to "hold a series of meetings with presidents of regional countries to discuss the latest national and worldwide developments".

But diplomatic wrangling between Italy and France hangs over this summit.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his Tunisian counterpart, Beji Caid Essebsi, are among a number of leaders who are attending the conference.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the United Nations envoy said all parties had agreed to a United Nations conference planned for early 2019 to prepare for elections to end the crisis.

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