Libya rivals in first direct talks on unity govt

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RABAT: Representatives of Libya’s rival parliaments had their first direct talks Saturday in negotiations aimed at agreeing a deal for a national unity government, with the United Nations talking of “important progress.”

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UN Libya envoy Bernardino Leon had shuttled between the two sides on Thursday and Friday (Friday and Saturday in Manila) during indirect discussions in Skhirat, near the Moroccan capital.

The two sides are discussing the form a unity government would take and the terms of a cessation of hostilities in the violence-wracked North African nation.

“Things are positive, constructive. Interventions are in a good spirit. But we will have to continue working,” Leon tweeted on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

Libya’s elected parliament is based in the eastern city of Tobruk while the rival Islamist-backed General National Congress is in the capital, Tripoli.

Participants said representatives of the two sides sat down face-to-face for the first time in the presence of Leon, Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar and Moroccan intelligence chief Yassin al-Mansouri.

Leon later told reporters that patience was necessary.

“We are currently working on the major questions, the question of security, the question of government,” he said.

“We’re progressing, but these are difficult questions that will not see results today or tomorrow. We must be patient, but I think we are heading in the right direction.” Moussa el-Kouani, a member of the elected parliament, said the representatives had agreed on a “series of principles” that they will examine with their respective leaderships before returning to “conclude an agreement”.

Concrete proposals
The discussions are due to end later Saturday and the delegations will go back to Libya on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to consult their leaders before returning to Morocco next week.

Kouani said the two sides had agreed to be back in Rabat on Wednesday.

The talks are being facilitated by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which said “the participants agree that important progress has been made so far.”

“The parties are determined to bridge their differences and have been working on concrete proposals on the key elements regarding security arrangements and a government of national unity to bring peace to the country,” a statement said.

Leon had been trying for weeks to bring the two sides together.

On Friday, he had called the talks process a difficult one that would not create solutions “in one or two days”.

Before the Morocco meeting, representatives of both parliaments had already held indirect talks on February 11 at Ghadames in southern Libya, again under UN auspices.

These were the first discussions of their kind since a national dialogue was launched at the end of September.

AFP

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