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Libya's rival groups to hold talks in Geneva

January 10, 2015

The UN has announced that a new round of peace dialogue between Libya's warring militias will be held in Geneva next week. The statement did not specify which of the factions would participate in the negotiations.

Libyan military soldiers fire their weapons during clashes with Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya (AP Photo/Mohammed El-Sheikhy)
Image: picture-alliance/AP/Mohammed El-Sheikhy

In a statement released Saturday, the United Nations said the dialogue among Libyan factions would aim to create stability in the restive country and pave the way for the national unity government.

Since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi's government in 2011, the North African country has plunged into a civil war, with rival groups setting up two governments and two parliaments, each backed by heavily armed former rebels.

"This dialogue is an important opportunity for the Libyans to restore stability and prevent the country's slide towards deeper conflict and economic collapse that should not be missed," the UN mission in Libya said. The talks will take place next week at the United Nations office in Geneva, it added.

The announcement came after UN envoy Bernardino Leon met with rival parties in Libya and urged them to resume peace talks "before it is too late."

"In order to create a conducive environment for the dialogue, Special Representative Leon has proposed to the parties to the conflict a freeze in military operations for a few days," the UN said. "Discussions will also seek to put in place the necessary arrangements in order to bring an end to the armed hostilities raging in different parts of the country."

A 'crucial juncture'

The European Union said the Geneva talks "represents a last chance which must be seized."

"Libya is at a crucial juncture; the different actors should be in no doubt of the gravity of the situation that the country finds itself in. The opportunity to establish a ceasefire and find a political solution should not be wasted," said Federica Mogherini, the EU's top diplomat.

A round of talks was scheduled for December 9 but was repeatedly postponed as fighting between Islamist militias and Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni's internationally-recognized government continued to rage. Thinni's government now operates out of the country's east.

Libya's capital, Tripoli, is currently under the control of an armed faction called Libya Dawn. The group took over the country's largest city in the summer, expelling the fighters from the city of Zintan who had occupied the city after a western-backed movement against Gadhafi toppled the former regime.

shs/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)