Delegates from Libya’s rival administrations met for talks Sunday in Morocco, more than two weeks after the two sides announced a surprise ceasefire.
The meeting, held at the initiative of Morocco which hosted peace talks in 2015 that led to the creation of a United Nations-recognised government for Libya, kicked off in the coastal town of Bouznika, south of Rabat.
Dubbed “Libyan Dialogue”, the talks brought together five members of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and five from a parliament headquartered in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, in remarks before the meeting got underway, said his country was offering the Libyans “space” to discuss points of contention dividing them.
“The kingdom is ready to provide Libyans with a space to discuss (issues), according to their will, and will applaud them regardless of the outcome,” Bourita said.
“Morocco has no agenda or initiative to submit” to the two sides, Bourita added.
A solution to Libya’s crisis must be decided by the Libyans themselves under the auspices of the UN, he said, before delegates met behind closed doors.
Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
The crisis worsened last year when military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who backs the Tobruk parliament and is supported by Egypt, the UAE and Russia, launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli from the GNA.
Haftar was beaten back earlier this year by Turkish-backed GNA forces and fighting has now stalled around the Mediterranean city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s eastern oil fields and export terminals.
At a January summit in Berlin, the main countries involved in the Libyan conflict agreed to respect an arms embargo and to stop interfering in Libya’s domestic affairs.
But on Wednesday, the interim UN envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, denounced what she called “blatant” ongoing violations of the arms embargo in the North African country.
According to an interim report from UN experts, “the arms embargo remains totally ineffective” and violations are “extensive, blatant and with complete disregard for the sanctions”.
Williams said the UN mission UNSMIL was also receiving reports of the “large-scale presence of foreign mercenaries and operatives” in Libya, adding that this complicates chances of a future settlement.
Sunday’s meeting in Morocco coincided with talks in Istanbul between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj, the Turkish presidency said, without elaborating.