Rival Libyan kingpins break the ice in Abu Dhabi

Reuters News
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Posted: May 02, 2017 9:14 AM

By Ayman al-Warfalli

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - East Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, reversing a previous refusal to engage with the country's U.N.-backed government, met its head Fayez Seraj on Tuesday for talks that sources close to Haftar said were positive.

Regional and Western powers have for months been pushing the two men to discuss resetting a U.N.-mediated agreement that led to the creation of Seraj's Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. The deal was an attempt to end the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar is the dominant figure for factions in eastern Libya that have rejected the GNA, contributing to its failure to expand its power in Tripoli and beyond. Rival armed factions in the west of the country have backed the GNA.

There was no official statement as the meeting - which took place in Abu Dhabi - ended, but the sources close to Haftar said he met Seraj one-on-one for two hours of talks they described as positive.

One sticking point has been a clause in the U.N.-mediated deal giving the GNA control over the military, which eastern factions fear will weaken the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) that Haftar commands.

Libya's 218 channel, a pro-Haftar TV station, said he and Seraj had agreed to propose cancelling the clause, and to form a restructured unity government.

"It was agreed to open permanent channels of communication and to form two working groups to complete an agreement on the details of the formation of a government and the military arrangements between officers from all regions," one source in Abu Dhabi who asked not to be named told Reuters.

There was also an agreement to hold presidential and parliamentary elections no later than March 2018, the source said. There was no immediate comment from the GNA.

It was the first time Seraj and Haftar had met since the start of last year.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi, Libya; Writing by Aidan Lewis; editing by Patrick Markey and John Stonestreet)