Libya talks bare divisions

Jihad Dorgham –

IItly’s Libya talks this week laid bare deep divisions between the key power brokers, threatening attempts to resolve the country’s ongoing crisis, analysts say.
Two days of meetings in the Sicilian capital Palermo saw some delegates refuse to sit side by side, while a meeting held on the sidelines sparked a diplomatic spat.
“The dynamics between the four Libyan delegations attending the Palermo conference regrettably show that the rifts are still very deep,” said Claudia Gazzini, a Libya analyst at International Crisis Group.
Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar showed up, only to snub the main conference and organise separate talks with international leaders.
Such a move was “a slap in the face to the Libyan politicians at the conference”, said Gazzini.
Haftar, whose self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) holds much of eastern Libya, held a meeting with representatives of Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, France and Russia.
One of his main rivals, UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj, also attended the “informal talks”, but Qatar and Turkey were not invited.
Their exclusion prompted Ankara to pull out of the main conference in protest.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al Mesmari later accused Turkey and Qatar of travelling to Palermo “to protect the interests of the terrorist groups which they are supporting in Libya”.
Khaled Saleh el Kuafi, a professor at the University of Benghazi, said the outcome “illustrated the extent of the crisis, the divisions in Libya and the fragility of the situation”.
Haftar “succeeded in being the star of the conference” by refusing to meet some of his rivals and sidelining Turkey and Qatar,” he added.
The Palermo talks followed a Paris meeting at which Libyan leaders agreed to prepare for elections this December. Such a timeline was widely viewed as unrealistic, however, and preparations for polls have now been pushed back to 2019.
For Khaled al Montasser, a professor at the University of Tripoli, international meetings cannot succeed “while the international parties are putting the Libyans under pressure and while they put forward solutions to the crisis which suit themselves and them alone”.
It should be up to the Libyans, he said, to “agree on the subjects that they must discuss”. — AFP