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Libya Elections Civil war

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Libya's competing leaders agree on holding elections, says UN

Fayez al-Sarraj (left) and Khalifa Haftar (right) pose for a photo with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (centre) during a meeting in Palermo on 13 November 2018. Photo: Handout/Palazzo Chigi press office/AFP

Rival leaders in Libya have agreed to hold elections in the country, agreeing on the “need to end the transitional stages”, according to a statement on Thursday from the UN mission in Libya. Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Western-backed government, and Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army, met in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Sarraj and Haftar agreed to hold general elections, said the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). “They also agreed on ways to maintain stability in the country and unify its institutions,” a statement said.

Libya was thrown into civil war following the fall of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 following a NATO-led intervention.

The country has been torn between an administration in the east backed by Haftar’s Libyan National Army and Sarraj’s Government of National Accord, supported by the UN.

Sarraj insisted on “a civilian Libyan state” during the meeting, according to the Libya Herald, an independent news website, citing sources on both sides.

Chris Stephen, a Libya correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, questioned whether the development was a “breakthrough”, pointing out that the two Libyan leaders had previously agreed to hold elections during meetings in both France and Italy.

However, other reports suggested that the meeting did not actually take place. The Middle East Monitor cited a source claiming that Haftar left Abu Dhabi having not met Sarraj. The London-based online publication said Sarraj had insisted “on having a unified military placed under a civilian authority”.

The African Union hopes to hold a conference in July with the aim of resolving the Libyan crisis, ahead of holding elections in October. A statement from the African bloc in mid-February said it would like to hold a meeting “under the auspices of the AU and UN”.