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Egyptian mediation committee identifies 'common ground' between Libyan rivals to end stalemate

Ahram Online , Wednesday 15 Feb 2017
Al-Sarraj and Hafter
Prime minister of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Al Sarraj, left, and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, right, the military leader of the so-called Libyan National Army and Libya’s parallel parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk (Photo: AFP)
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The Egyptian committee mediating between rival political factions in Libya issued a statement Tuesday night saying it found common ground between the various parties during current talks in Cairo which could form the foundation of a political settlement to end the country's civil war.

In a statement issued by the Egyptian army shortly following the end of meeting on Tuesday, army spokesman Tamer El-Refai said the Egyptian committee mediating the Libyan crisis — headed by Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry — identified areas of agreement between the rival Libyan forces.

The talks, which took place Monday and Tuesday, were attended by the Chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council Fayaz Al-Sarraj, who is based in the capital Tripoli in the west of the country and is recognised by the UN as the country's president, and Field Marshall Khalifa Hifter and Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, who both represent House of Representatives in Tobrouk in the east of the country in Tabrouk.

El-Refai said the "common ground sensed" could be translated into several steps towards reaching a resolution, including preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018.

This is the first time that the two opponents have met in Cairo.

It remains unclear whether or not they held direct talks.

According to El-Refai's statement, the talks covered issues of significant disagreement between the factions, including the formation and powers of the presidential council, Hifter's position as commander of the armed forces, and the expansion of membership in the High State Council based in Tripoli.

The army's statement outlined four steps that could help in resolving the on-going crisis. 

First, the factions would form a joint committee comprised of up to 15 members each from the parliament and the High State Council to discuss the distribution of power in a unified state.

Second, the parliament would propose constitutional amendments necessary to implement the 2015 UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement -- also known as the Skhirat Agreement -- brokered by the UN in December 2015. These would include amendments proposed by a conference hosted in Cairo in December last year. The parliament would then issue a declaration of these amendments, to be approved by the aforementioned committee.

Third, the parties would organise parliamentary and presidential elections, to be held no later than February 2018.

Fourth, the factions would work together to determine interim leadership until elections are held.

There are no reports that the parties signed any agreement.  

Egypt has played an active role in mediating a solution to Libya's protracted civil war and political crisis.

Over the past months, Cairo has held meetings with different Libyan political factions through its Army Chief of Staff Hegazi, in which Egypt has stressed the need for a political consensus to end the war.

In December, Egyptian officials and representatives from multiple Libyan factions issued a declaration of principles and five proposed amendments to the Skhirat agreement, at the conclusion of a meeting in Cairo.

The December conference concluded by underscoring four main principles to be respected in Libya's transition: the preservation of a united Libyan territory, support for national institutions, non-interference by foreign bodies, and the maintenance of a civil state.

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