Libya’s eastern-based army chief invited to attend peace conference in Italy

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has invited Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar to join a two-day conference in Italy, aimed at pushing forward a new UN plan to stabilize Libya.

The Palermo Conference kick-starts Monday despite the absence of high-level attendees from the international community, such as France’s Macron, Russia’s Putin, America’s Trump or Germany’s Merkel.

“I expect Haftar to be present since there is no doubt that he is one of the decisive players of the stabilization of his country,” Conte was quoted by local media as saying.

Haftar, who visited Rome in late October, has confirmed he would take part in the conference, according to the Italian government. But pro-Haftar Libyan media later reported that he would boycott the talks, without explaining the reasons of the boycott.

Libya fell into chaos following the NATO-backed 2011 uprising that toppled Moamer Qaddafi. Two rival administrations have since emerged- the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and an eastern administration backed by Haftar.

Despite a UN-sponsored peace agreement, the North African nation remains politically divided. Haftar–who leads the Libyan National Army–is the defacto military ruler of much of Eastern Libya.

The UN last week conceded elections will not be viable before at least the spring of 2019.

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