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Libya, Neighbors Hold Talks in Cairo to End Country’s Crisis

  • Edward Yeranian

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala, top center, attends a ministerial meeting of countries neighboring Libya, in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 21, 2017. Also in attendance was United Nations envoy Martin Kobler, third right.

Rival Libyan leaders met Saturday in Cairo with diplomats from seven neighboring states to discuss forming a new government acceptable to all parties. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told journalists that further talks would take place in Algeria next week.

Diplomatic talks between rival Libyan leaders and representatives of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria, Chad, Niger and Mali ended Saturday with an agreement to hold further discussions next week in Algeria.

Behind-the-scenes meetings between key players in the Libya negotiations, including army general Khalifa Hafter, also have been taking place. Hafter, who commands Libyan military forces in the eastern part of the country, is opposed by political figures close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, who coordinated the talks, stressed that Cairo was waiting for the new Trump administration to gain its bearings before discussing the Libya situation and other regional issues:

He said Egypt is waiting for new U.S. officials to be in place in order to come up with a common position to deal with chronic regional problems, including Libya.

Egypt and most of the six other regional states present at the gathering have been calling for the lifting of the U.N. arms embargo placed on the military under the command of General Hafter.

Foreign Minister Shoukri argued that General Hafter’s forces are the country’s national army and that the U.N. embargo should be lifted so that it can carry out its duties.

U.N. special envoy for Libya Martin Kobler, who was also at the talks, told Arab media he thinks General Hafter should “play a role” in any solution to the Libyan conflict. Hafter, who is supported by the Libyan parliament in Tobruk, is opposed by a number of Islamist figures in the “unity government” of Fayez al-Saraj.

Libyan political analyst Abdel Wahab Laytan told Arab media he thinks rival Libyan leaders who attended the Cairo talks agreed on the need for a compromise.

He said most Libyan leaders are eager to put an end to the current political impasse in the country, but they disagreed over the details of a compromise.

Fayez al-Saraj’s government, which has had friction with other political factions in the capital, Tripoli, has yet to be officially approved by the parliament in Tobruk.

U.N. envoy Kobler stressed that he “hoped that 2017 would be the year of resolution for the Libyan conflict, and not just a time for more talks.”

Algeria’s representative to the talks indicated that most of Libya’s neighbors “would like to see greater stability in the country to put a stop to terrorism originating in Libya, as well as illegal migration.”

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