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Libya’s Sarraj, Haftar Meet in Abu Dhabi | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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General Khalifa Haftar (R), commander of armed forces loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan government, shakes hands with the head of UN-backed Libyan Presidential Council, Fayez al-Sarraj, in the eastern town of al-Marj on January 31, 2016 (AFP Photo/)

East Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, reversing a previous refusal to engage with the country’s United Nations-backed government, met its head Fayez Sarraj on Tuesday for talks that sources close to Haftar said were positive.

Haftar is the dominant figure for factions in eastern Libya that have rejected the GNA, contributing to its failure to expand its power in Tripoli and beyond. Rival armed factions in the west of the country have backed the GNA.

There was no official statement as the meeting – which took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – ended, but the sources close to Haftar said he met Sarraj one-on-one for two hours of talks they described as positive.

One sticking point has been a clause in the UN-mediated deal giving the GNA control over the military, which eastern factions fear will weaken the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) that Haftar commands.

Libya’s 218 channel, a pro-Haftar TV station, said he and Sarraj had agreed to propose cancelling the clause, and to form a restructured unity government.

“It was agreed to open permanent channels of communication and to form two working groups to complete an agreement on the details of the formation of a government and the military arrangements between officers from all regions,” one source in Abu Dhabi who asked not to be named told Reuters.

There was also an agreement to hold presidential and parliamentary elections no later than March 2018, the source said. There was no immediate comment from the GNA.

It was the first time Sarraj and Haftar had met since the start of last year.