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UN envoy urges Libya to continue power-sharing talks

Martin Kobler, the UN envoy for Libya, wants the country's rival parliaments to agree to a national unity government
Martin Kobler met with with representatives of the internationally-recognised government (AFP)

The UN's envoy for Libya held talks in Tripoli on Friday, seeking to encourage the administration there to commit to a national unity government that would end years of bloodshed.

Martin Kobler, on a seemingly desperate diplomatic push to get Libya's two separate administrations to sign a power-sharing agreement, met on Thursday with representatives of the internationally-recognised government near its headquarters in the east of the country. 

On December 17, under UN guidance, envoys from both sides and a number of independent political figures signed a deal to unify the government.

Around 80 of 188 lawmakers from Libya's internationally recognised parliament and 50 of 136 members of the rival Tripoli-based General National Congress signed the deal.

The agreement calls for a 17-member government, headed by businessman Fayez el-Sarraj as premier, based in Tripoli. 

But analysts have cast doubt on the viability of a deal that would seek to bring together two parliaments controlled by hardliners.

The head of the rival parliament, Nouri Abusahmein, asked Kobler to meet a number of leaders in the Tripoli-based administration, including senior military and intelligence officers and judiciary.

"We believe that for any political agreement to be effective on the ground, all parties tasked with implementing it have to be present with us today," Abusahmein said.

At a press conference in a VIP lounge at Tripoli's Mitiga airport late on Friday, Kobler said that in meetings with both administrations he put forward "five points".

Firstly, "the Libyan political agreement is the basis of all discussions. There is no alternative," he said.

Secondly, "there should be no parallel initiatives. All initiatives should be based under the umbrella of the United Nations," Kobler added.

The process must be "inclusive," and also be guided by the principle of "the peaceful transfer of power from the old institutions to the new institutions," he said.

Finally, he said, there was "the principle of Libyan ownership. It must be a Libyan agreement and the Libyans must steer the process."

However, the media chief of the Tripoli-based government cut the press conference short and told Kobler that the event was "illegal" and required prior permission.

Chaos has plagued Libya since the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi and now has two governments and parliaments. 

Militant groups such as the Islamic State (IS) have taken advantage of the lawlessness to make gains along the coastline, and the UN estimates that fighting has forced 435,000 people from their homes.