LIBYAN PLAYERS SET FOR ITALY SUMMIT IN FRESH BID TO SOLVE CRISIS

TRIPOLI– Libya’s key political players are set for a two-day meeting with global leaders in Italy, in the latest bid by major powers to kick-start a long-stalled political process and trigger elections.

A summit in Paris in May had seen the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar agree to hold national polls on Dec 10.

But acknowledging the chaotic political situation since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was deposed in 2011, the UN last week conceded that elections will not be viable before at least the spring of 2019.

Just as in May, the key Libyan invitees are Haftar, the eastern parliament’s speaker Aguila Salah, GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj and Khaled al-Mechri, speaker of a Tripoli-based upper chamber.

Sarraj recently urged the international community to find a common vision for the future of his chaos-hit North African nation.

The GNA says it will use the Palermo talks to lobby for security reforms that unify the army, a constitutionally-rooted electoral process, economic reform and an end to parallel institutions.

The US, Arab countries and European nations will all send representatives to the talks set to take place in the Sicilian city of Palermo on Monday and Tuesday.

For Rome’s populist government, a top priority is stemming the flow of migrants who exploit Libya’s security vacuum in their quest to reach European shores, often via Italy.

The Palermo conference is a fundamental step in the goal of stabilising Libya and for the security of the entire Mediterranean, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said last week.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame told the Security Council on Nov 8 that a national conference in early 2019 would be organised to provide a platform for Libyans to spell out their vision for the future.

But diplomatic wrangling between Italy and France hangs over this week’s summit.

In September, Italy’s defence minister and parliamentary speaker both partly blamed France for Libya’s security crisis, which continues to simmer some seven years after the NATO-backed uprising toppled Kadhafi.

The Italian swipes came as Tripoli was plagued by militia clashes that killed at least 117 people and wounded more than 400 between late August and late September.

Rome and Paris have for months been at loggerheads over Libya’s election timetable. While France repeatedly endorsed the December date, Italy opposed it.

Italy has not been alone in pushing for elections to be delayed � the Dec 10 date was also viewed sceptically by Washington and Moscow.

We support elections as soon as possible, but artificial deadlines and a rushed process would be counterproductive, David Hale, the number three at the US State Department, told the Middle East Institute in Washington last week.

According to diplomats and analysts, Russia, France, Egypt and the UAE support Haftar, while Turkey and Qatar have thrown their weight behind rivals to the eastern strongman, especially Islamist groups.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK