Libyan men on a bulldozer wave the national flag as they gather to mark the eighth anniversary of the uprising in Libya's second city of Benghazi Image Credit: AFP

Tunis - Libya's internationally recognised Prime Minister Fayez Al Serraj and the eastern commander Khalifa Haftar agreed at a meeting in United Arab Emirates on the need to hold elections, the U.N. Libya mission said on Thursday.

It gave no further details in a brief statement.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, received on Tuesday Fayez Mustafa Al Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya, and his delegation.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame said in an interview last month, at the Munich Security Conference “End of the year is a true possibility for holding parliamentary and presidential elections,". Adding “It should be feasible unless something very negative happens between now and then.”

Salame said there has been “a lot of progress” on bringing Libyan sides together during the past few weeks “but we are not there yet.” The national unity meeting should take place within the first three months of the year, after “the important stakeholders agree on a political compromise,” he added.

A summit on Libya hosted by Italy in November set a target of holding elections in the first half of 2019. But the timetable slipped as the UN struggled to overcome the differences among Libyans. First, a referendum needs to be held on a new constitution and laws passed on the framework for holding the polls.

A UN-brokered unity deal in 2015 failed to heal the country’s divisions. The government it dispatched into Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has struggled to impose its authority, even over the capital.

Stabilizing Libya is a priority for European governments. Chaos has made it a favored transit point for migration to Europe, feeding a rise in populism. Insecurity has also enabled extremists fleeing Syria and other conflicts to establish strongholds just across the Mediterranean.

Since a NATO-backed war ended Muammar Qaddafi’s 42-year rule in 2011, Libya has been carved up among militias and rival administrations in Tripoli and the east, which is largely under the control of military commander Khalifa Haftar. Infighting has repeatedly interrupted oil shipments, thwarting efforts to revive an economy ravaged by corruption and profiteering.

Salame urged foreign powers not to take sides. “The problem is that there are a number of actors who call for help from outside for themselves and therefore they complicate their own situation by not agreeing,” he said.