PARIS (Reuters) - France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he had seen “positive elements” that may help end the Libyan crisis, after meeting warring parties in the country earlier this week.
Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Seraj and the divided nation’s eastern commander Khalifa Haftar agreed in principle in Paris in July to committing to a conditional ceasefire and to working towards elections in 2018.
The deal did not include other key factions and Jean-Yves Le Drian travelled to Libya on Monday to try to convince the two main players, but also others across the country, to back the tentative agreement, which France hopes the United Nations will use as a basis to push forward its own mediation efforts.
“I think we’re on the path, but now the role of finding a calendar, an agenda is down to (U.N. envoy Ghassan) Salame ... to find the exit route to this difficult situation and enable political reconciliation and to exit this crisis,” Le Drian said during a visit to Science-Po university in Paris.
“We’re not there yet, but there are positive elements that make us think that may be .... there will be an exit.”
Western governments, worried about Islamist militants and smugglers thriving in Libya’s chaos, are pushing a broader U.N.-backed deal to unify Libya and end the instability that has weakened the country since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
President Emmanuel Macron sees the Libya crisis as an opportunity to push Paris’ diplomatic clout. He has wanted a deeper French role in bringing Libyan factions together in the hope of countering militant violence and easing Europe’s migrant crisis.
Libya is split between Seraj’s U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, which is loosely supported by militias in the west that includes Islamist groups backed by Turkey and Qatar, and Haftar, which the United Arab Emirates and Egypt support.
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Hugh Lawson