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Delegations from Libya's rival parliaments meet face-to-face at peace talks

Reports in Libya suggested that peace talks may produce an agreement to form a unity government in the near future
Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon, gives a press conference (AFP)

Delegates from Libya's rival parliaments met face-to-face on Sunday for the first time since UN-brokered peace talks were launched in January aimed at forming a unity government.

"Libyan dialogue participants hold first joint working meeting in Skhirat Morocco on Sunday 28 June," said a tweet on the official website of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

The Libya Herald said that the body language “suggested a degree of wariness” but stressed that the two sides have been meeting informally for coffee and that they even shared an iftar meal last night.

According to participants interviewed by AFP, the delegates were able to overcome many differences and could be on the verge of hammering out a deal shortly.

"Today's meeting was positive. There are many common points of view" on the draft deal presented by UN special envoy Bernardino Leon, said Saleh al-Makhzoum, a representative of the Tripoli-based parliament.

Abu Bakr Baira, a deputy from the elected parliament in Tobruk, told journalists "there is agreement on most of the issues".

He said the two sides were expected "to initial a written document that narrows down diverging views".

"After the document is initialled, everyone will return to their bases in order to obtain final approval" for the draft deal, said Tawfik Chahibi of the Tripoli parliament.

However, any deal will have to be approved by the rival parliaments, which have thus far scuppered negotiations.

The previous draft announced shortly before the start of Ramadan was rejected by the Tobruk-based parliament, while the Tripoli-based authorities had struck down its predecessor and demanded that Leon step down.

Despite the talks, violence has continued to rage in Libya. Sixteen soldiers of the Libyan National Army (LNA) were killed on Sunday in clashes with the Al-Qaeda-linked group Abu Salem Brigades, an army spokesman said.

The North African country is in the midst of a brutal civil conflict, which has pitted rival cities, tribes, and militias against each other in a battle for supremacy over the continent's largest oil reserves. The lack of an effective, unified government has created a political vacuum that has seen the Islamic State group recently gain a foothold in the country - an issue which has increased the urgency of talks to produce a new unity government.