Egypt hosting high-profile Libya talks to ease deadlock


CAIRO (AP) — Egypt is hosting high-profile talks among Libya’s top political and military figures aimed at resolving the war-ravaged country’s political deadlock, officials said Thursday.

The head of Libya’s U.N.-brokered unity government, Fayez Serraj, has met over the past two days with Aqila Saleh, the head of the Libyan parliament. Saleh is also to meet the head of the Cairo-based Arab League later Thursday.

The Saleh-Serraj meeting — the first in months — sought to “open direct channels of communications after a period of separation,” said Abdullah Behlek, the spokesman for Saleh’s parliament, which is based in the eastern Libyancity of Benghazi.

Libya’s powerful Gen. Khalifa Hifter, backed by Saleh’s parliament, is holding separate meetings with both Saleh’s and Serraj’s deputies.

Egypt has backed Hifter in the war against Islamic militias in eastern Libya over the past two years, including with training and weapons and logistics supplies.

Libya is bitterly divided among rival factions. Since 2014, it has been split between two governments and two parliaments, based in western and eastern Libya, respectively.

In December, the U.N. brokered a deal to heal the rift, creating a unity government led by Serraj that is now based in Tripoli.

Saleh’s parliament — based in eastern Libya — remained the only internationally-recognized assembly in the country. However, it has not endorsed the unity government, leading to the stalemate. Among one of the main objections by the parliament is an article in the U.N.-brokered deal that effectively deprives lawmakers from having authority over the army.

Abdel-Basit bin Hamel, a well-known Libyan journalist with close ties to officials meeting in Cairo, said the Egypt talks are trying to resolve who will command the Libyan army and whet the portfolio of the defense minister will entail.

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