Will UN find common ground between Libya rivals?

Friday 17/04/2015
Still working to narrow differences

SKHIRAT (Morocco) - The UN said Friday it was trying to narrow differences between Libya's rival parliaments over an agreement aimed at forming a unity government to end unrest tearing the country apart, as fresh fighting broke out near the capital Tripoli.

The differences emerged in written observations by the two sides on the agreement envoy Bernardino Leon is trying to clinch, said Samir Ghattas, spokesman for the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

"We have received the text from the parties on their remarks. There are differences that we are working to narrow," he said in statement.

"But there are many elements that they are in agreement on," he added, without elaborating.

Leon did not meet the delegates Friday, as he had done since the talks to thrash out an agreement resumed two days earlier in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat.

But he reportedly spent the day reviewing written observations to try to find common ground.

The impasse comes as forces of the internationally recognised government attacked a base controlled by the rival administration near the capital Tripoli, with at least 21 people killed in the clashes, including three civilian women.

The fighting marks a new front to the east of Tripoli as pro-government forces attempt to regain the capital, under the control of the rival Islamist-based alliance since August.

Libya has been divided since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with the two opposing governments and parliaments and armed groups now battling to control its cities and oil wealth.

On March 24, UNSMIL unveiled a six-point plan to end the crisis, including the formation of a transitional unity government until a new constitution is adopted and elections held.

Earlier Friday, Mohammed Chouaib of Libya's internationally recognised parliament said his delegation had handed Leon written observations.

"We hope that the dialogue will resume in order to reach a definitive agreement in the next two days," he added.

Mohamed Maazab, a member of the rival parliament, said his group had also submitted remarks to Leon on the draft agreement.

He said the accord being considered aims to find "consensus on which authorities will take charge of the future transitional period".

Leon warned Wednesday that this round of talks would be the last.

"I really hope that the negotiators that are coming today are understanding that we cannot wait any more and this will really be the final round," he said.

Tawfiq Othman from the recognised government's delegation said that he expects the talks to continue after Sunday.

"The UN mission is working today and tomorrow on our observations to formulate a third draft, which will be a new starting point for further discussions," he said.

One sticking point, Othman said, was the other side's insistence on being represented in the legislature, as well as in the government.

"This is very difficult for us. We agreed that it participate in the government and we are negotiating this point, but their participation in the legislature will be very difficult," he said.

Othman's government is backed by the parliament that was elected last June, and which fled the capital after it was seized by Islamist-backed militias in August.

The rival parliament is the General National Congress, a transitional body elected after Gaddafi's ouster, whose mandate expired last year.