UN hosts Libyan military leaders in hopes of end to conflict

AP , Monday 19 Oct 2020

Monday's meeting marks the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under the watch of the head of the UN support mission for Libya, former US State Department official Stephanie Williams

Libya talks
This handout picture distributed by the United Nations Office at Geneva shows representatives standing during the Libyan national anthem at the beginning of talks between the rival factions in the Libya conflict, as they resume on October 19, 2020, in Geneva. (AFP PHOTO)

Military leaders from Libya's warring sides met Monday in Geneva in hopes of a U.N.-brokered breakthrough that could pave the way for a "complete and permanent cease-fire" in the conflict-ridden North African country.

The meeting that began Monday marks the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under the watch of the head of the United Nations support mission for Libya, former U.S. State Department official Stephanie Williams.

U.N. organizers say the round is expected to run through Saturday, and Williams' mission "hopes that the two delegations will reach a solution to all outstanding issues in order to achieve a complete and permanent cease-fire across Libya."

The meetings make up the security aspect of three-track talks, also involving political and economic tracks, that are aimed to lift Libya out of its grueling conflict that has ground on nearly ever since the fall of Muammar Gaddafii in 2011.

Speaking at the start of the talks, Williams told the two sides that their success in these talks would have a positive effect on the political and economic tracks of the ongoing U.N.-brokered talks aiming at ending years-long Libya conflict.

Williams, who met on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, said encouraging separate meetings were held with the two delegations in the past two days.

The Geneva-based military talks came ahead of an upcoming political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to "generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections," the U.N. mission said.

Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country's divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied with the resumption of oil production after months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar's forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the U.N.-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.

Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya's major oil export terminals.

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