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UN launches new peace talks to end turmoil in Libya

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Libyan delegates attend the opening of peace talks in Gammarth on the outskirts of Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, November 9, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

In Libya, the two power rivals have opened UN-led talks aimed at ending nearly a decade of political turmoil and warfare by arranging elections across the country.

There was a meeting between the respective representatives in Tunisia on Monday.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the delegates in a video message at the opening of the event that the two sides now had an opportunity to seize.

“You have the opportunity to end a tragic conflict,” Guterres said. “Now it’s your turn to shape the future of your country.”

Stephanie Williams, the UN Libya envoy, has also called for “a clear road map” toward holding polls.

“Elections need to be the ultimate objective here.”

Williams also cited “progress on the ground in terms of confidence measures that have accompanied the military dialogue” as well as the resumption of domestic flights to the country’s south and a surge in oil production.

“This is a unique opportunity,” Williams said of the talks. “There has been significant progress on the ground.”

The 75 people taking part in this week’s dialogue were selected by the UN to represent the country’s political, military and social makeup.

Williams also urged all the figures to make compromises at a time when the COVID-19 disease has killed more than 900 people in Libya.

“The status quo cannot continue,” Williams said, urging participants “to come with spirit of compromise to be willing to make concessions for the sake of Libya.”

The rivals eventually agreed to sign a permanent ceasefire agreement in all areas in the Swiss city of Geneva last month. 

The country, which sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa, descended into fresh violence last year after the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) under rebel commander Khalifa Haftar moved toward the capital Tripoli to seize the city. Government forces repelled him. 

The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.

According to the ceasefire, all military units and armed groups must pull back from the front lines and return to their camps. All foreign fighters and mercenaries must leave Libya within three months – by January 23.

Libya initially plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster, and later killing, of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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