ADDIS ABABA: The African Union is organizing a national reconciliation conference for Libya, AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said, the latest bid to restore stability to the conflict- wracked nation.
“We have met with the different parties and we are in the process of working with them on a date and place for the national conference,” he said after a press conference wrapping up a two-day AU summit.
The meeting will be chaired by the African Union’s point man on Libya, Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Faki said.
Libya descended into a decade of violence following the 2011 overthrow of Muamer Qaddafi in a rebellion.
Since March last year, an administration in Libya’s east backed by military leader Khalifa Haftar has challenged the UN-recognized government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, arguing it has outlived its mandate.
Elections were originally scheduled for December 2021 to cap a UN-sponsored peace process.
But the polls were postponed indefinitely because of strong differences over controversial candidates and the rules on participation.
Faki said that a preparatory meeting for the reconciliation conference had been held in Tripoli several weeks ago.
“The departure of mercenaries was demanded,” he said.
“The Libyans must talk to each other, I believe that’s a precondition for elections to be held in a stable country.”
Earlier this month, the United Nations mission in Libya announced that senior officials from the rival administrations had endorsed a coordination mechanism to clear the country of foreign troops and mercenaries.
It hailed “an important step toward achieving sustainable stability and peace in Libya” after a meeting in Cairo on Feb. 8 along with officials from Sudan and Niger.
However, the discussions led by UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily failed to produce a clear timetable or concrete measures for the withdrawal of foreign fighters.
The UN estimated in late 2021 that there were more than 20,000 foreign fighters, both military and paramilitary, in the country.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday issued a new call for the complete withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, and said elections were the only “credible pathway to legitimate, unified governance.”