Libyan Factions Begin New Round of UN-Brokered Peace Talks in Morocco

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Fighters from the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), an alliance of Islamist-backed militias, take position in Bir al-Ghanam, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the capital, on March 5, 2015. AFP/Mahmoud Turkia.

Published Friday, March 6, 2015

Representatives of Libya's two rival parliaments on Thursday held UN-brokered talks in Morocco aimed at reaching an agreement on a national unity government and finding someone to head it, officials said.

The meeting took place in a "positive and constructive" spirit, UN special envoy Bernardino Leon, who has been trying to bring the two sides together for weeks and who chaired the talks, told a press conference.

In the previous rounds of UN-brokered peace talks, Leon was not successful in holding direct face to face negotiation between the main warring factions.

Libya has been wracked by conflict since the 2011 armed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, with two governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the North African country's oil fields.

The talks in Skhirat, near the Moroccan capital Rabat, come after delays caused by deadly jihadist attacks that prompted the internationally-recognized government to pull out of discussions before returning.

The two sides are "fully aware" of the urgency of the situation, Leon said.

Libya's internationally-recognized parliament is based in the eastern city of Tobruk while the rival Islamist-backed General National Congress (GNC) is in the capital Tripoli.

The meeting was part of an attempt to "find an agreement between the different parties on a national personality to lead a national unity government," one participant said.

The next step was to name "ministers who will represent the different parties," said the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for Leon's mission to Libya Samir Ghattas said the talks would also focus on security, aiming for a halt to fightings in the war-torn country.

In a briefing ahead of the meetings, Leon told UN chief Ban Ki-moon the aim was to form a unity government and "address security arrangements to pave the way for a comprehensive ceasefire," as well as complete the constitution-drafting process.

The meeting came as the internationally-recognized government has been pushing for the lifting of an arms embargo to help it fight jihadists, amid growing alarm over the threat from Libyan militants affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Members of the UN Security Council have been reluctant to lift the arms embargo due to fears they might end up in the wrong hands, according to diplomats.

But they were not opposed to relaxing some conditions of the weapons ban once a unity government is formed through national dialogue.

"The solution is not to supply more arms because there are enough on the ground," said the German Ambassador to Libya Christian Mokh, attending the Morocco talks as an observer.

In addition to the Morocco meetings, the United Nations has invited representatives of Libyan political leaders and activists to more talks in Algeria next week.

Just before the Morocco talks, Libyan forces from the internationally-recognized government said they would halt airstrikes for three days.

Warplanes from both factions had for three days hit Tripoli's Maitiga, oil ports in the east and an airport in the western town of Zintan, but without causing major damage.

Libya has been awash with weapons since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Gaddafi, and opposing militias have since been battling for control of its cities.

Libya has two rival governments and parliaments. The internationally-recognized government was forced to flee to the country's east in June after militias, among them Islamists known as Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn), seized Tripoli and other main cities.

Meanwhile, some militias have pledged allegiance to ISIS, but the main groups, including the Fajr Libya coalition, which has been involved in the peace talks, have not done so.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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