May 3, 2017 / 3:44 PM / 2 years ago

Libyan rivals say will calm tensions, but political roadmap unclear

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Rival Libyan camps issued separate statements on Wednesday promising to calm tensions in southern Libya and fight terrorism, but offering no shared way forward for a political deal to unify the North African country.

FILE PHOTO: General Khalifa Haftar, commander in the Libyan National Army (LNA), leaves after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, in this file photo dated November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

The statements came a day after intense diplomatic pressure resulted in a meeting in Abu Dhabi between eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar and the head of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, Fayez Seraj.

Haftar is the key figure for eastern factions that, frustrating international efforts to end Libya’s conflict, spurned Seraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) after it was established in the capital last year.

There was no direct mention in the statement from Seraj of plans reported by pro-Haftar media on Tuesday to restructure the unity government and hold fresh elections next year.

A source close to the GNA leadership said the two sides had initially tried to agree on a joint statement before deciding to issue separate declarations.

Conflicting accounts of initial agreements and leaks of documents neither side signed have in the past confused international mediation and negotiations to end the conflict in Libya, which fell into factional fighting in the years after a 2011 civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

The statement issued by Seraj’s office said the meeting with Haftar had been held in order “to achieve a peaceful settlement for the Libyan crisis” and called for “an expanded dialogue to establish national consensus”.

It stressed the need for “upholding the goals of the February revolution” against Gaddafi, building up an army under civilian control, combating terrorism, defusing an escalation of violence in the south and “taking all measures that guarantee the peaceful hand-over of power”.

Haftar commands the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) and casts himself as a military leader capable of defeating Islamist extremism and bringing Libya’s numerous militias to heel.

His opponents fear he is seeking to reestablish authoritarian rule in Libya, and say they will fight to defend the 2011 revolution.

A statement carried by eastern, pro-Haftar media focused on protecting the army and mentioned “the need to work to address the proliferation of armed formations”.

It also said amendments to the U.N.-mediated deal that resulted in the creation of the GNA in late 2015 had been discussed, without giving details.

Like the 2015 deal, any roadmap agreed by Seraj and Haftar could face opposition from armed and political factions on the ground.

Those factions have grouped in shifting and complex alliances as rival camps have fought for power and a share of the Libya’s oil wealth over the past three years.

Reporting by Aidan Lewis in Tunis, Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi; editing by Patrick Markey, John Stonestreet and Toby Davis

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