Libya’s rival leaders have met in the French capital, Paris, to agree on a political roadmap in an effort to bring order to chaos gripping the North African country.
The talks at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday brought together Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, and General Khalifa Haftar, whose forces dominate eastern Libya.
Representatives of Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which have backed forces loyal to General Haftar attended the conference.
The rival leaders tentatively agreed on a political roadmap leading to parliamentary and presidential elections on December 10.
In the eight-point declaration that closed the conference, the Libyan leaders committed to accepting electoral results and ensuring funds and “strong security arrangements” for the vote.
They also committed to working on “phasing out parallel government” and on “the unifying of the Libyan Central Bank and other institutions.”
The agreement, however, said little about what could prove to be the biggest challenge to holding elections and reuniting the country.
An official at the French presidency said ahead of the conference that some Libyan groups are opposed to the process.
“Of course there are Libyans who are opposed to this political process, others who are for a ‘status quo’ because they have an interest in it, others who are for disorder and instability. So we must not close our eyes,” the official said. “They are a minority.”
The UN special envoy, Ghassan Salame, suggested that Tuesday’s agreement was a step forward. “This is a historic meeting. We do not speak in place of the Libyans. It’s the Libyans who agree all together in our presence. This is crucial.”
France is trying to play the peacemaker’s role in a country where years of efforts by the United Nations have failed to bring stability.
The International Crisis Group, an NGO on conflict resolution, warned in a statement on Monday that the Paris conference might unintentionally undermine the UN-led peace process. “French organizers should avoid imposing too rigid a framework.” It also called for “a broader declaration of principles on political, security and economic steps that would help stabilize and unite the divided country.”
Libya is split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias. The country slid into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. France was at the forefront of airstrikes carried out along with the United States and others in the NATO operation.
In recent years, the country has also become a base for Takfiri Daesh terrorist group and other extremists and a departure point for African migrants seeking to enter Europe.