UN: Libyan PM, eastern commander agree national election needed

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Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister and the military commander of its breakaway eastern half have met and agreed that national elections are necessary, the UN said on Thursday.

Wednesday’s meeting in United Arab Emirates was the first to be confirmed between Fayez al-Serraj and commander Khalifa Haftar since November, when they came face to face in Palermo, Sicily.

They agreed “on the need to end the transitional stages in Libya through holding general elections,” the UN Libya mission (UNSMIL) said in a Tweet.

“They also agreed on ways to maintain stability in the country and unify its institutions.”

The economy and political institutions in the oil-producing country have been in turmoil since long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

The UN, supported by Western powers, has sought for almost two years to organize elections as a way of ending eight years of conflict.

A proposed date of December 10 came and went due to lack of progress in resolving differences between the heavily divided nation’s rival powers.

Al-Serraj’s spokesman confirmed that a meeting with Haftar had taken place but said no date for elections had been set. There was no immediate comment from the commander’s office.

Fayez al-Serraj heads Libya’s internationally recognized government in the capital Tripoli while Haftar is based in the east and allied to a parallel administration.

The UN gave no further details about the Abu Dhabi meeting. After similar encounters it has engineered, it often releases pictures showing handshakes between the participants. It made no such picture available on Thursday.

The UN tweet made no mention of a UNSMIL plan to a national conference to decide on the type of elections, an idea which has met resistance in the east where many see it as a waste of time.

Haftar’s forces, the Libyan National Army (LNA), last month started an offensive in southern Libya, capturing the main city in the region and two oil fields.

On Monday, Libya’s state-run National Oil Corp’s chairman Mustafa Sanalla arrived in the UAE to meet with a number of Libyan and international parties to discuss the el-Sharara oilfield crisis.

The 315,000-barrels-a-day field deep in Libya’s southern desert has been closed since December when state guards and tribesmen seized it to make financial demands.