Rival Libyan factions agreed on a declaration to create a political framework paving the way for UN-backed elections in December to end the country’s seven-year-old conflict.
The oil-producing nation splintered following the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi and since 2014 has been divided between competing political and military groups based in Tripoli and the east.
The United Nations is leading an effort to reunify Libya and organise national elections. France under President Emmanuel Macron sought to play a bigger role in coaxing factions to end the turmoil, which has seen Islamist militants gain a foothold and migrant smugglers flourish.
The Paris meeting, included eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez Seraj and leaders of rival parliamentary assemblies, aimed them to agree to general principles for ending the conflict and moving towards elections.
The four stakeholders said they agreed to work constructively with the UN to realise credible and peaceful elections by December 10 and abide by the results.
“Nobody says it will be a path layered with roses. Challenges exist and will continue to grow,” Seraj told a news conference.
“Last month there was a terrorist attack and there are enemies to this democratic process.”
The declaration was not signed as originally planned because the parties do not all recognise each other’s legitimacy and want to consult their home bases, but agreed in principle.
The eight-point document includes a call for immediate unification of the central bank and phasing out of parallel government and institutions. It makes a commitment to support creation of a national army and encourage dialogue on the issue in Cairo.
The parties committed to set the constitutional basis for elections and adopt electoral laws by September 16 with a view to holding legislative and presidential elections on December 10.
Libya UN envoy Ghassan Salame said he would have his work cut out in the coming weeks, bu saw a convergence between the will of the Libyan people and the international community.
“This convergence must not be lost,” he said.
The declaration also agrees to an inclusive political national conference, without setting a timeframe. Unlike an earlier draft, it no longer directly threatens international sanctions on those who impede the accord or dispute the outcome of elections.
Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst for the non-governmental International Crisis Group, said the statement was more nuanced than earlier drafts, but set an “extremely optimistic” timeframe for elections and left unclear how the powers of a future president would be decided.
Past attempts at peace deals in Libya have been scuttled by internal divisions among armed groups and by different countries backing the local stakeholders.
To tackle that, 20 countries and organisations were represented, including Italy, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Libya’s neighbours, who all have influence over different groups on the ground.
“By accepting these dates and a protocol, nobody will be able to say they don’t agree, because all the protagonists were here today,” Macron said at the news conference.