Tunisia to host March meeting with Egypt, Algeria for talks on ending Libyan crisis

Karem Yehia, Tunis , Thursday 16 Feb 2017

Khamis Alaghinawa
File Photo: Tunisian foreign minister Khamis Alaghinawa (Photo: Sputnik News)

Tunisia is set to host on 1 March a much-anticipated tripartite meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Algeria to discuss resolving the Libyan crisis, Tunisian Foreign Minister Khamis Alaghinawa announced.

In an interview broadcast by state-owned Tunis Afrique Presse on Tuesday, the Tunisian minister said the purpose of the meeting is to prepare for a tripartite summit between the presidents of the three states, discuss what each country is doing to communicate with rival Libyan factions, and generate a comprehensive vision for the war's resolution.

According to Tunisian government sources, the presidential summit will be held in Algeria due to the fragile health of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose condition bars him from leaving the country. A date for the summit has not been announced.

Alaghinawa said Tunisia supports calls by Egypt and Algeria to find common ground between rival sides in the war stricken country and overcome impediments to unifying the government.

He added that the doors for discussion in Tunisia were open to all Libyan sides, and that his country extends invitations to all of them for talks.

Among the factions Alaghinawa named were Libyan army commander Khalifa Haftar, who the minister described as a "patriotic man and a crucial element in any agreement that aims to end the Libyan crisis."

Field Marshall Haftar, along with Tunisian Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, represents the country's parliament in the eastern city of Tobrouk, and is opposed to the Tripoli-based government of Presidential Council Chairman Fayaz Al-Sarraj, who is recognised by the UN as the country's legitimate president.

Early last week, sources in the foreign ministry told Ahram Online that preparations for Haftar's first-time visit to Tunisia have yet to begin, adding that there would be no objection from Tunisia to his visit.

Tunisia and Algeria will join Egypt, which has played an ongoing role, in mediating between the Libyan sides to find a solution to the crisis.

On Thursday, Egypt's Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazi, who is mediating talks between the Libyan factions on behalf of Cairo, received a delegation from Libya's High Council of State. This was the latest visit by officials from Libya to discuss a way forward with Egyptian officials.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian reconciliation committee, which includes Hegazi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, said it had found common ground between the various parties during talks in Cairo, which could form the foundation of a political settlement.

The talks, which took place Monday and Tuesday, were attended by Al-Sarraj, Haftar and Saleh, although Al-Sarraj did not meet directly with the latter two.

The meeting was the first time the Al-Sarraj and Haftar had travelled to Cairo for talks at the same time.

The committee said the "common ground sensed" between the rivals could be translated into steps towards a resolution, including preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and other "areas of agreement."



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