Rival Libya leaders meet for 1st time since May

Conte flanked by al Serraj and Haftar

In September, Italy's defence minister and parliamentary speaker both partly blamed France for Libya's security crisis, which continues to simmer seven years after the NATO-backed uprising toppled Gaddafi.

Whether Haftar will participate in the discussions now that he is in Palermo remains to be seen, after his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) said today that he had travelled to the conference only to "hold a series of meetings with presidents of regional countries to discuss the latest national and worldwide developments", not to speak with rival Libyan factions, according to Middle East Eye.

An Italian official said that during Monday's talks on the margins of the conference, Haftar told Sarraj that his rival did not need to resign ahead of the hoped-for elections.

A previous United Nations plan for elections next month was shelved last week.

In an interview provided by his media office, Haftar said he wanted to meet with African leaders in particular to discuss migration. The envoy said 80 percent of Libyans insist on having elections.

The main players in the Libya crisis met in Sicily on Tuesday for Italian-sponsored talks aimed at kickstarting a long-stalled political process and triggering elections despite searing enmities in the divided country.


Serraj heads the government in the west, which has struggled to exert control beyond the capital Tripoli.

However, the Libyan National Army Command said Haftar had come there to meet with representatives of the bordering states and concerned parties to discuss the events in Libya and on the global arena rather than to take part in the forum. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived on Monday evening.

The conference is being held in wake of United Nations envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame's statement last week that presidential and parliamentary elections will not be held in the country before the end of the year.

But diplomatic wrangling between Italy and France hangs over this summit.

On Monday UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame told Reuters he hoped another attempt to hold an election would take place by June but Libyans should first hold a national conference in early 2019 to decide on the vote's format. Italy backs Serraj and his weak Government of National Accord (GNA), and has worked with local groups in Libya to stop Europe-bound migrants from embarking by boat.

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