GENEVA ( Associated Press) – Two senior Libyan officials on Tuesday began two-day talks on a constitutional arrangement for the election, the latest UN effort to bridge the gap between the country’s rivals.
Aguila Saleh, the influential speaker of the country’s east-based parliament, and Khalid al-Meshri, the head of the Supreme Council of State, the government’s west-based government, met at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva.
According to the United Nations, the talks will focus on drafting a constitutional framework for the elections, after rival factions of Libya failed to reach an agreement in their last round of talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
According to Libyan media, the criteria for the presidential candidacy were a controversial point in the talks. The Tripoli-based council pushed for a ban on military personnel running for the country’s top post – a move apparently directed at the divisive commander Khalifa Hifter, whose forces remain loyal to the former-based administration.
Hifter had announced his bid in the elections to be held last December, but the vote was not held due to a myriad of issues, including controversial candidates who announced bids and disputes about election laws.
Tensions are rising on the ground, and recently there have been sporadic clashes between rival militias in Tripoli. Living conditions have also worsened due to the lack of fuel in the predominantly oil-rich nation. Tribal leaders have closed several oil plants, including the country’s largest area.
The blockade was mainly meant to cut off major state revenues to the incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dabiba, who refused to step down in December despite not having a vote.
Now, Dabeba and another prime minister, Fathi Bashaga, appointed by the former-based parliament to lead a transitional government, are claiming power. The rivalry has raised fears that the oil-rich country could return to fighting after tentative moves toward unity last year.
Libya has been devastated by conflict since the NATO-backed insurgency killed and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country was then divided between rival administrations to the east and west, each supported by various militias and foreign governments.