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Libya at ‘moment of truth’ as talks deadline looms

The U.N.-sponsored deal to form a unity government between two rival factions is set for Sept. 20

Published: Updated:

The U.N. peace envoy for Libya, Bernardino Leon, has said that the latest round of peace talks launched in Morocco on Thursday could prove to be the “moment of truth”.

“We are starting a new round of talks in the Libya process, which we hope will be the final round, the moment of truth for the parties,” he said in Skhirat near the Moroccan capital.

“We are very hopeful that they will understand that this deadline of 20th of September must be the last one, must be the one that will allow Libya to get out of this crisis.”

Libya, torn apart since dictator Muammar Qaddafi's ouster in 2011, has two rival administrations - a body in Tripoli known as the General National Congress (GNC) and an internationally recognized one based in Tobruk in the far east.

"We are very hopeful that they (the parties) will understand that the deadline of Sept. 20 must be the last one, must be the one that will allow Libya to get out of the crisis," Leon told reporters in Skhirat in Morocco.

Leon did not say what would happen if his Sept. 20 deadline was not met. The target date for an agreement has been repeatedly pushed back. The mandate of the House of Representatives, seat of Libya's internationally recognized government, expires in October, adding pressure for a deal.

Delegates from the international recognized government have already accepted a preliminary deal, but the Tripoli faction has yet to agree.

Negotiators from both sides are under pressure from hardliners who see they can still gain from continued conflict. Military forces on both sides are loose alliances of former anti-Gaddafi rebels who turned against each other or whose loyalties are more to tribal or regional allegiances.

But Libya's turmoil is an increasing concern for European leaders as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants gain ground there and smugglers take advantage of the chaos to ship thousands of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.