By Ulf Laessing
Month-long U.N.-backed talks aimed at bridging differences between rival Libyan factions ended on Saturday with no discernable progress towards stabilizing the country and paving the way for elections.
A month ago U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame, the latest in a series of Libya envoys since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, announced a one-year action plan for a transition toward presidential and parliamentary elections.
Since then the U.N. has hosted in Tunis delegations from rival parliaments from eastern Libya and Tripoli, which are meant to draw up amendments to a previous U.N.-mediated plan signed in December 2015.
But at the end of a second round of talks Salame said only that discussions would continue, without giving a new date.
“There are some area of consensus … but there are parts which need discussions with the political leaderships inside Libya,” Salame told reporters, without giving details.
Delegates will return to Libya on Sunday, the U.N. mission said in a statement. Salame will go to Tripoli next week to discuss how to move the talks forward, a U.N. source added.
The North African country has been in turmoil since Gaddafi’s downfall gave space to Islamist militants and smuggling networks that have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe.
Political and military fractures have left the country mired in conflict and the OPEC member’s economy in freefall. Rival parliaments and governments have vied for power.
The U.N. tried a similar approach in 2015 of hosting Libyans in luxury hotels abroad but the deal never won support from the power-brokers and factions aligned with military commander Khalifa Haftar that control eastern Libya.
Haftar is just one of many players in Libya controlled by armed groups divided among political, religious, regional and business lines.
A U.N. source said a major obstacle at the Tunis talks had been how to integrate Haftar, who is opposed by many in western Libya, in any deal and whether he would control a future national army.
Western states have tried to work with the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, but it has been hamstrung by internal splits and been unable to halt a slide in living standards or tame the power of armed groups.
Under the new U.N. plan, once amendments have been agreed a national conference is meant to approve the members of a transitional government that would run the country until elections.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Ros Russell and Robin Pomeroy)
Ulf Laessing – Reuters News North Africa bureau chief, previously covering Nigeria, Libya, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Personal account.