Top level Libya rivals meeting in Malta cancelled at last minute

Nouri Abusahmain arriving in Malta. Video: Steve Zammit Lupi

A meeting between the two rival Libyan governments in Malta this evening was cancelled at the last minute after the Tobruk delegation failed to turn up, has learnt. 

The surprise meeting would have brought together the presidents of the two rival parliaments ahead of renewed hopes that a national unity government in Libya was finally on the cards.

Nouri Abusahmain, the president of the Tripoli-based General National Council, arrived in Malta this afternoon where he was met by Maltese government officials. But shortly after, the government was informed that the Tobruk officials would not be showing up. No reason was given.

The Maltese government was asked late last night whether it could provide logistical support for the two sides to meet up.

Libya's rival factions yesterday agreed to December 16 as a target date for signing a United Nations-backed national unity government agreement meant to end their conflict.

The UN has been negotiating for a year to get Libya's two rival governments and armed factions to end their war that has plunged the North African state into chaos four years after rebellion ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Successfully signing an agreement would open the way for the international community to support Libya in the fight against Islamic State

Successfully signing an agreement would open the way for the international community to support Libya in the fight against Islamic State, which has gained ground in the chaos and controls the western city of Sirte.

But hardliners in both camps have been resisting a deal. Several past deadlines to sign have fallen through after opponents balked at details or demanded more concessions from their rivals.

The United Nations Security Council said that a unity government must be formed swiftly to counter the threat of Islamic State militants.

For more than a year, Tripoli has been controlled by an armed faction called Libya Dawn, a coalition of former rebel brigades from Misrata and other armed factions in the capital, after they battled to force out rivals.

They set up a self-styled government and reinstated the old parliament, known as the General National Congress. The internationally-recognised government and the elected House of Representatives were forced to operate out of the east.

Both factions are backed by loose alliances of former rebel brigades, tribal fighters and former Gaddafi soldiers, including Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who has been appointed armed forces commander by the government in the east.


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