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UN launches forum to facilitate intra-Libyan talks and elections after truce

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The United Nations said on Sunday that Libya’s rival factions would hold political talks, days after the two main parties in the country’s conflict agreed to a cease-fire.

Head of the U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Stephanie Williams announced the launch of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), saying it would hold its first meeting online on Monday.

In-person talks are due to start on Nov. 9 in Tunisia.

On Friday, Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and another delegation representing the rival putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s forces reached a country-wide permanent cease-fire agreement in Geneva.

The deal has rekindled hopes for an end to the yearslong conflict in the North African country.

Seventy-five Libyans from different constituencies are due to attend Monday’s online talks, according to Williams.

The LPDF forum was originally established after an international conference on Libya held in Berlin on Jan. 19.

“Invited participants in the LPDF are drawn from different constituencies, based on the principles of inclusivity, fair geographic, ethnic, political, tribal, and social representation,” Williams said in a statement.

“The overall objective of the LPDF will be to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to holding national elections in the shortest possible timeframe,” the U.N. mission said.

Libya’s warring sides also agreed in Geneva that foreign military forces and mercenaries are to leave Libya.

The head of the U.N.-backed government, Fayez Sarraj, in August called for a cease-fire and the demilitarization of the Sirte and Jufra areas. Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the eastern-based House of Representatives, which backs Haftar, supported Sarraj’s proposal for demilitarizing Sirte, but he did not mention Jufra, which includes a vital military air base held by Haftar.

However, on Aug. 27, the Libyan Army announced the first breach of the cease-fire by the militias, which fired more than a dozen Grad rockets at army positions west of Sirte.

Prior to the cease-fire, fighting stalled around the central Mediterranean port of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s eastern oil fields and export terminals, and to the key Jufra airbase to the south.

Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli. But his campaign collapsed in June when the Tripoli-based GNA with heavy Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of the city and other western towns.

Turkey is the main backer of the U.N.-recognized Tripoli government, while the putschist Khalifa Haftar is backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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