Egypt working for talks between rival Libya authorities

Cairo (AFP) - Egypt is working to organise direct talks between the leaders of rival Libyan authorities contesting the war-torn country, its foreign minister said Saturday after hosting a regional meeting.

The UN-backed government in Tripoli has struggled to impose its authority contested by a rival administration in the east of the country.

"A political solution is the only way to resolve the crisis in Libya," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday before going into a meeting with foreign ministers from Libya's neighbouring countries.

Following the meeting, attended by ministers from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Niger, as well as UN envoy Martin Kobler, Shoukry announced plans to hold the direct negotiations.

"We are focusing our efforts on bringing Libyan leaders together for a direct dialogue, to build confidence and understanding," he told a news conference.

Libya has been torn apart by fighting between militias, tribes and the two rival governments since the fall of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The parliament-backed government in eastern Tobruk has refused to recognise the Government of National Accord, based in the capital Tripoli.

"The will to organise this meeting is present, its date will be decided according to the commitments of the Libyan leaders," Shoukry said.

Jihadist groups have exploited the chaos to gain a foothold in the North African country.

"Despite recent victories in the fight against terrorism, in Benghazi and in Sirte, terrorism will never be fully eradicated in Libya until there is a political solution," Shoukry said.

Militarily, the eastern administration is backed by the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army commanded by Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar enjoys the support of several Arab countries including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as well an emerging alliance with Russia.

GNA-aligned militias from the port city of Misrata, who led the fight to oust the Islamic State group from Sirte last year, control much of the west.

In the east, Haftar's forces have been fighting other jihadist groups for more than two years, particularly in Benghazi.

Egypt recently hosted Haftar, parliament speaker Aguila Saleh and unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj in search of "common ground" that could help solve the crisis, Shoukry said.