Rivalling leaders in Libya met in Palermo, Sicily, in a bid to end divisions and agree to a plan for peace and stability.
Rival leaders in Libya met for the first time in months at a conference hosted by the Italian Government in Palermo, Sicily, with a view to bridging the divide between the country’s eastern and western powers. Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls large swathes of the east, and Fayez Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), arrived as the key players in the country.
Leading up to the conference, sources close to Haftar suggested that he intended to boycott the conference, thereby significantly reducing its legitimacy. His attendance for meetings in Palermo, despite snubbing the main conference, could be seen as a success in and of itself. The meeting was also attended by a number of key domestic and international actors, including Aguila Saleh, Khalid al-Mishri, and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
A key focus of the conference was how to reconcile the two sides in a way that will be seen as legitimate both domestically and internationally. Whilst joint elections were initially planned for December, clashes in Tripoli over summer, coupled with persistent political disputes and a lack of preparation, had made this untenable.
During the meeting in Palermo, both sides agreed to an alternative plan proposed by the UN, which includes holding a comprehensive national reconciliation conference and setting the groundwork for elections to be held in the summer of 2019. According to the UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, the reconciliation conference will provide “a platform” for the various sides to spell out their vision for the country’s future.
While the recent meeting has highlighted the need for further talks, it has set the stage for next summer’s elections. This will go a long way to ending the country’s long-drawn out civil war. Many Libyans hope that these elections will contribute towards improving stability and security, as well as smooth over differences between Libya’s eastern and western powers.