PALERMO (Italy), Libya’s key political players including strongman Khalifa Haftar met with global leaders in Italy on Monday in the latest bid by major powers to kick-start a long-stalled political process and trigger elections.
A summit in Paris in May had seen the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern Libya strongman Haftar agree to hold national polls on Dec 10, but that date has fallen by the wayside.
Acknowledging the chaotic political situation since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was deposed in 2011, the United Nations conceded elections will not be viable before at least the spring of 2019.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte welcomed Haftar in the Sicilian capital Palermo after days of doubts over his crucial presence.
Haftar decided not to attend a working dinner at the Villa Igiea venue, with round-table talks set for Tuesday morning.
Analysts say the Sicily summit risks being compromised not only by tensions between Libyan factions but also the competing agendas of foreign powers.
Just as in May, the key Libyan invitees are Haftar, the eastern parliament’s speaker Aguila Salah, GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj and Khaled al-Mechri, speaker of a Tripoli-based upper chamber.
In an interview, Sarraj urged the international community to find a “common vision” for the future of the chaos-hit North African nation.
The GNA says it will use the Palermo talks to lobby for security reforms that unify the army, a constitutionally rooted electoral process, economic reform and an end to “parallel institutions”.
The US, Arab countries and European nations are all sending representatives to the Tuesday talks. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived on Monday evening.
For Rome’s populist government, a top priority is stemming the flow of migrants who exploit Libya’s security vacuum in their quest to reach European shores, often via Italy.
“The Palermo conference is a fundamental step in the goal of stabilising Libya and for the security of the entire Mediterranean,” Conte said last week.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame told the Security Council last Thursday that a national conference in early 2019 would be organised to provide “a platform” for Libyans to spell out their vision for the future.
One Italian diplomatic source said that no definitive poll date should be set at the summit and it is “not sure that there will be a final document” after the talks.
According to diplomats and analysts, Russia, France, Egypt and the UAE support Haftar, while Turkey and Qatar have thrown their weight behind rivals to the eastern strongman, especially Islamist groups.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK