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UN urges Libyans to prioritise national interest in November talks

Neighbouring Tunisia is set to host talks in early November including representatives of civil society, tribesmen, political leaders, and members of bodies representing both administrations

AFP , Monday 12 Oct 2020
Jerandi & Williams
Tunisia's Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi (R) and Stephanie Williams, the deputy special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Political Affairs in Libya, hold a press conference at Carthage Palace on the eastern outskirts Tunis on October 12, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
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The UN's Libya envoy on Monday urged rival parties to place the national interest before political ambitions when they meet for talks next month aimed at ending a decade of bloodshed.

The North African country is dominated by armed groups, riven by local conflicts and divided between two bitterly opposed adminstrations: a unity government based in Tripoli and its eastern-based rival led by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the National Libyan Army (LNA).

Neighbouring Tunisia is set to host talks in early November including representatives of civil society, tribesmen, political leaders, and members of bodies representing both administrations.

"What we want to see in terms of participation is people who are not there for their own political aspirations, but for their country," said UN envoy Stephanie Williams on Monday, after meeting Tunisian President Kais Saied.

Asked whether Haftar or unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj would be present, she said participants would be able to take part on the condition "that they remove themselves from consideration in high government positions."

She told AFP this included membership of the key Presidential Council, the prime minister's job and ministerial posts.

The talks are intended to prepare for national elections, she added.

Tunisia's Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi called for "a dialogue between Libyans that could lead to a political solution to the crisis."

A previous agreement between rival Libyan sides, signed in Morocco in 2015, created a unity government that was never recognised by Haftar.

In April 2019 he launched an offensive to seize Tripoli, but was pushed back after over a year of fighting.

Since his forces were driven from western Libya, the rival sides have resumed talks on specific themes: institutions, military and political affairs.

The Tunis talks will begin on October 26 by videoconference, before continuing face-to-face in early November.

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