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French foreign minister in Libya to push peace deal
September 4, 2017 / 11:41 AM / 3 months ago

French foreign minister in Libya to push peace deal

TRIPOLI, Sept 4 (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian met Libyan officials in Tripoli on Monday to offer support for a deal between political rivals signed in Paris aimed at stabilising the North African country.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Seraj and the divided nation’s eastern commander Khalifa Haftar in July committed to a conditional ceasefire and to work towards elections, but the agreement did not include other key factions.

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.

In Tripoli, Le Drian met Seraj and planned talks with Abdulrahman Swehli, a politician connected to some of Haftar’s rivals who heads a parliamentary council in the capital, Libyan officials said.

Le Drian is also to visit Misrata, Swehli’s home city and a base of opposition to Haftar, before heading to Benghazi to meet Haftar and to Tobruk to meet the head of an eastern-based parliament that backs him.

The French minister’s visit is in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s push for a deeper French role in bringing Libyan factions together in the hope of countering militant violence and easing Europe’s migrant crisis.

“Our objective is the stabilisation of Libya in the interests of the Libyans themselves,” Le Drian said in a statement in Tripoli.

“A united Libya, equipped with functioning institutions, is the condition for avoiding the terrorist threat in the long term.”

He said the Paris deal was meant to support the U.N.-backed accord for a government of national unity.

Past Western attempts to broker agreements have often fallen victim to political infighting among rival factions and armed brigades vying for power in the OPEC oil producer.

Seraj’s government has struggled to impose control and its presidential council is divided. Haftar has refused to accept its legitimacy. He has been gaining ground, backed by allies Egypt and United Arab Emirates. (Reporting by Hani Amara; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Andrew Roche)

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