France to host international conference on Libya ahead of scheduled elections

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French President Emmanuel Macron will host an international conference on Libya on November 12, a month ahead of elections that aim to put an end to a decade of civil war but that look increasingly uncertain.

“In view of the December elections, France will organize, around the President of the Republic, an international conference on Libya on November 12,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, during a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Le Drian and his German and Italian counterparts, Heiko Maas and Luigi Di Maio, will also co-chair a meeting devoted to Libya on Wednesday in New York.

France is asking for the elections to be held on schedule and for the “departure of foreign forces and mercenaries,” said Le Drian.

The ratification earlier this month of an electoral law that was clearly tailor-made for Khalifa Haftar, the military strongman who controls eastern Libya, raised tensions three months before the crucial ballot.

The law was not put to a vote and was signed by the head of the parliament seated in the eastern city of Tobruk, Aguila Saleh, a Haftar ally.

The head of the Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS), which has been acting as a senate, Khalid al-Mishri, rejected the legislation, which he said had been passed “without a legal vote or consensus.”

The HCS on Monday proposed a postponement by at least one year of the presidential election, owing to a lack of consensus on the electoral law.

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush at the end of August likewise did not rule out postponing the elections.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has expressed support for Haftar, is pressing for the legislative and presidential elections to be held as scheduled on December 24.

The United States also described the poll as “the best opportunity it has had in a decade, to bring the conflict to closure.”

In December, the UN estimated there were some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters in Libya, including Russians from the private security company Wagner, Chadians, Sudanese and Syrians. Several hundred Turkish soldiers are present in Libya under a bilateral agreement with the previous government in Tripoli.

(AFP)

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