Libya’s warring sides meet for face-to-face talks

The United Nations says military officers from Libya’s warring sides have arrived in the oasis town of Ghadames for the first face-to-face talks inside the country since last year’s months-long attack on the capital by eastern-based forces.

The three-day meeting that began on Monday is expected to focus on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement reached last month between the internationally recognised government in Tripoli and renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.

The UN’s Libya envoy Stephanie Williams is also present at the talks in Ghadames, located some 465km (290 miles) southwest of Tripoli, far from the power bases of either side.

A major oil producer, Libya has been wracked by violence since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew and killed veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Since then, the North African country has been dominated by armed groups, riven by local conflicts and divided between two bitterly opposed administrations: Tripoli’s UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and a rival administration in the east affiliated with Haftar.

The meeting of the joint military commission follows an October 23 deal when the two warring factions signed a “permanent” ceasefire deal intended to pave the way towards a political solution to the country’s grinding conflict.

The talks are part of long-running efforts to broker peace.

Haftar, backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019, but was beaten back in June by the GNA with military support from Turkey.

Warring factions returned to the negotiating table in September in UN-supported talks, with negotiations being held in Morocco, Egypt and Switzerland.

On November 9, the political leaders are due to hold face-to-face talks in Tunisia.

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