Geneva talks: Important dialogue at ‘crucial juncture’ in Libya
TRIPOLI - The United Nations announced Saturday a new round of peace talks between Libya's warring factions in Geneva next week, as the European Union warned the country was at a "crucial juncture".
"This dialogue is an important opportunity for the Libyans to restore stability and prevent the country's slide towards deeper conflict and economic collapse that should not be missed," the UN mission in Libya said in a statement.
The announcement came after UN envoy Bernardino Leon met with rival camps and urged them to resume peace talks "before it is too late".
Leon has proposed a freeze in military operations for a few days "in order to create a conducive environment for the dialogue," according to the UN statement.
It said the talks were aimed at reaching an agreement on the formation of a unity government and to create "a stable environment" for the adoption of a new permanent constitution.
"Discussions will also seek to put in place the necessary security arrangements in order to bring an end to the armed hostilities raging in different parts of the country," it added.
It did not give a specific date for the talks.
The announcement came after Leon on Thursday held talks for the first time with General Khalifa Haftar, who is spearheading a government-backed offensive to recapture the second city of Benghazi from mainly Islamist militia.
More than three years after dictator Moamer Gathafi was toppled and killed in a Western-backed revolt, the North African nation is engulfed in chaos with rival governments and parliaments as well as powerful militias fighting for territory.
The European Union said the Geneva meeting "represents a last chance which must be seized".
"Libya is at a crucial juncture; the different actors should be in no doubt of the gravity of the situation that the country finds itself in. The opportunity to establish a ceasefire and find a political solution should not be wasted," said Federica Mogherini, the EU's top diplomat.
A new round of talks had been scheduled for December 9 but was repeatedly delayed as fighting intensified between the beleaguered internationally recognised government and Islamist-backed militias.
Difficulties finding a safe venue for the talks contributed to the delay, the UN said.