May 29, 2018 / 1:44 PM / 10 months ago

Libyan factions agree to Dec. 10 elections at Paris talks

PARIS (Reuters) - Rival Libyan factions agreed on Tuesday on a declaration that would create a political framework to pave the way for U.N.-backed elections in December to end the country’s seven-year-old conflict.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, and the participants of the International Conference on Libya listen to a verbal agreement between the various parties regarding the organization of a democratic election this year at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. Etienne Laurent/Reuters

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 to organise national elections.

The Paris meeting, included eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez Seraj, and the leaders of rival parliamentary assemblies, aimed to urge them to agree general principles for ending the conflict and moving towards elections.

“Against the backdrop of a Libyan-owned process and the full engagement of all Libyan parties involved, we committed in Paris on May 29, 2018 ... to work constructively with the U.N. to realise credible and peaceful elections as soon as possible and to respect the results of these elections when they occur,” an eight-point joint statement by the four stakeholders read.

The declaration was not signed as originally planned. It calls for the immediate unification of the central bank and the phasing out of parallel government and institutions. It makes a commitment to support the creation of a national army and encourage a dialogue on the issue in Cairo.

“The parties have committed to set the constitutional basis for elections and adopt the necessary electoral laws by September 16, 2018 and hold Parliamentary and Presidential elections on December 10, 2018,” the statement said.

It agrees to an inclusive political national conference, but unlike an earlier draft seen by Reuters it no longer sets a timeframe. The final statement no longer directly threatens international sanctions on those who impede the accord or dispute the outcome of elections, saying only that they will be held accountable.

Several countries, including the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Italy, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Libya’s neighbours attended the meeting.

Past attempts at peace deals in Libya have often been scuttled by internal divisions among the country’s armed groups and by the different countries backing the local actors.

Under President Emmanuel Macron, France has tried to play a bigger role in coaxing the factions to end the turmoil, which has let Islamist militants gain a foothold and migrant smugglers flourish.

Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis in Tunis; Editing by Andrew Roche

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