By Vatican News staff writer
Representatives of Libya’s opposing factions met on Monday for UN-led talks aimed at restoring peace in the war-torn north African country.
Seventy-five delegates representing the various rival groups and political sides of the Libyan conflict attended the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum held at Gammarth, Tunisia. The forum focused on creating a consensual agreement to manage the nation's affairs and plan towards holding general elections as soon as possible.
The Political Dialogue Forum is also expected to build on a key 23 October ceasefire agreement signed by the opposing sides in the long-running conflict.
During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed that the meetings of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum would lead toward finding a solution “to the long suffering of the Libyan people.”
The Holy Father also expressed his hope that the “recent agreement for a permanent ceasefire be respected and concretized” and prayed for the delegates of the Forum.
An opportunity to end the conflict
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that these meetings were “an opportunity to end the tragic conflict and create a future of dignity and hope” for the country, in his video address to the delegates at the Forum.
“Now it is your turn to shape the future of your county. Your commitment to this process will help restore Libyan sovereignty and democratic legitimacy of Libyan institutions. As you engage in dialogue through your differences, your determination will be tested.”
However, “compromise is the only approach that will pave the road to national unity,” Guterres said, adding, “The future of Libya is now in [their] hands.”
The head of the UN mission to Libya, Stephanie Williams, added that the meetings were “a time of rare optimism, a glimmer of hope after many years of crisis.”
Williams also stressed that “the overriding aim of the National Political Programme is to renew political legitimacy by holding national elections,” and she called for “a clear road map” towards holding polls in the near future.
Delegates at the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum were chosen based on the principles of “inclusivity, fair geographic, ethnic, political, tribal, and social representation,” the UN announced in October. They include "representatives of the House of Representatives, of the High Council of State as well as Libyan political actors who are not members of the two institutions, and with a "firm commitment to the meaningful participation of Libyan women, youth and minorities.”
Libya has been beset by conflict caused by armed groups divided between two opposing administrations: the UN-recogized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the western capital Tripoli; and a rival administration led by eastern Libya’s General Khalifa Hafter.
Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019 but was resisted by GNA forces with support from Turkey. The fighting left several hundred people dead and displaced tens of thousands more.