Libya’s two main rival leaders met for the first time in over five months at a reconciliation conference hosted by Italy and the prime minister endorsed a United Nations plan for an election in 2019.
The Tuesday’s meeting in Palermo could be seen as a success in a fraught diplomatic environment in which factions on the ground in the widely lawless country and their foreign allies have rarely seen eye to eye.
In a sign of the tensed atmosphere, the Turkish delegation stormed out early, complaining of being excluded from a meeting.
Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, whose weak but internationally recognised government is based in the country’s West, met Khalifa Haftar who rules most of the East.
There were no announcements of diplomatic breakthroughs, but Serraj’s spokesman said on Twitter that the prime minister was committed to a UN road map to hold an election in the spring after a constitutional framework had been put in place.
A previous UN plan for elections in December was shelved recently.
A draft communique, reviewed by Reuters, said Libyan delegations had agreed to prepare for the election by spring 2019 and abide by the results.
An Italian diplomat said Haftar had given his backing for Serraj to remain in office as prime minister until the election can be held.
“You don’t change the horse until you cross the river,” the diplomat quoted Haftar as saying.