U.N. to hold conference in Libya in April to discuss conflict solution

U.N. to hold conference in Libya in April to discuss conflict solution

The United Nations will hold a long-awaited conference inside Libya in April to discuss a way out of the country’s eight-year conflict, a U.N. envoy said on Wednesday, although it remains to be seen whether powerful factions will attend.

The forum will be open to all Libyans and take place in the southwestern town of Ghadames on April 14-16, envoy Ghassan Salame told reporters at the U.N. compound in Tripoli.

“We hope it will be a new opening for the country for stability,” Salame told reporters, adding that up to 150 participants would join.

Salame had unveiled the idea of a “national conference” in November to prepare the ground for elections after an initial plan to stage a vote on Dec 10 had proved unrealistic given a lack of understanding between the main conflicting camps.

Libya has two governments, an internationally recognized administration based in Tripoli and a parallel version in the east allied to Khalifa Haftar, a military commander. The streets of much of the country have been controlled by a variety of armed factions since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Salame has faced resistance to his proposed conference from the east, where Haftar’s supporters have called for a military solution after his Libyan National Army (LNA) took control of the south, expanding beyond his eastern power base.

Haftar has not said whether he wants to march on Tripoli. But he has left some troops from a southern campaign in central Libya to build up pressure on Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, who has no force of his own, to agree on a power sharing deal, diplomats say.

There was no immediate official comment from the LNA.

But a spokesman for Aguila Saleh, head of the House of Representatives allied to Haftar, gave only casual support for the conference, saying it was unclear whether any decisions taken there could be implemented.

“The reality is that the most powerful faction…the eastern-Libyan camp led by Marshal Haftar, follows a military logic,” said Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya analyst. “For the strongman, diplomatic forums are just a space where losers are asked to accept his ascendancy.”