France moves to unite Libya

Emmanuel Macron

France will host talks on Tuesday between Fayez al-Serraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, a powerful military commander in the divided country’s east who has so far rejected his authority.

According to a statement, during the talks, President Emmanuel Macron aims to show France’s support for UN-backed efforts to stabilise the country.

“The talks would be based on the involvement of all the different factions in Libya,” Macron’s office said.

NAN reports that Haftar and Seraj held talks in Abu Dhabi in May, their first in more than a year and a half, about a UN-mediated deal that Western powers hope will end the factional fighting that has dominated Libya since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Citing unidentified sources, Saudi-owned al-Hayat said the meeting sought to build on diplomatic efforts by the United Arab Emirates, the UN and neighbouring Egypt.

Macron said on July 13 there would be concrete diplomatic initiatives on resolving the conflict soon.

He wants France to play a bigger role in coaxing Libya’s factions to end the turmoil that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

The meeting comes at a time when Haftar has gained ground militarily with Egyptian and United Arab Emirates support, and Western states say Haftar must be part of any solution to the conflict in the oil-producing North African state.

French officials fear Islamic State militants, who were driven from the coastal city of Sirte in 2016, and other jihadists could try to exploit the power vacuum in Libya to regroup after losing substantial ground in Syria and Iraq, and see this a window to push the sides closer together.

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