Libya rivals meet for U.N.-brokered talks

The talks were to focus on moving the process forward ahead of an international meeting on Libya scheduled for Sunday in Rome

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Libya’s rival parties met in Tunisia Thursday for talks on a disputed U.N.-brokered deal backed by the international community to set up a unity government in the conflict-ravaged country.

The talks were to focus on moving the process forward ahead of an international meeting on Libya scheduled for Sunday in Rome, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said.

The U.N. envoy for Libya, Martin Kobler, and representatives of rival parliaments took part in the discussions at a hotel in a Tunis suburb, with foreign diplomats invited as observers.

Kobler, who only took over from his predecessor last month, said he felt “very encouraged” by what he heard in the talks, adding that the parties would meet again on Friday.

“I’ll go with big confidence in our meeting tomorrow because we are going to define the messages for the meeting in Rome,” he told reporters.

“The international community is very interested in this process, in particular the threat emanating from terrorism,” he said.

“There must be a legitimate government very soon.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will co-chair Sunday’s talks in Rome with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni.

Representatives from Russia, Britain, China and France will also attend the conference, which comes at a time of growing international concern that the ISIS militant group has been exploiting the chaos in Libya to take root in the country.

Libya has had two administrations since August 2014, when a militia alliance overran Tripoli, forcing the recognized government to take refuge in the east.

On Tuesday, ambassadors to Libya from several EU countries and the United States warned against attempts to derail the U.N.-brokered deal, which was proposed in October, insisting it was the only way forward.

Their statement came after the rival parliaments announced a deal of their own that was reached without U.N. participation.

They urged those who still oppose the U.N. proposal to act “urgently and responsibly in the interests of the Libyan people, and to join the majority who want peace in unity under a stable and inclusive” national unity government.

That deal was rejected by Libya’s internationally recognized parliament, which is based in eastern Libya, and by the rival General National Congress in Tripoli.

Last Sunday, they announced agreement on a joint “declaration of principles” aimed at resolving the crisis that has engulfed

Libya since a 2011 uprising toppled Dictator Muammar Gaddafi.