Talks between rival Libyan factions have started in Geneva with the aim of reaching a peace deal that could lead to the development of a unity government.

The UN is hosting the talks in the Swiss city amid warnings they could be the last chance for peace in the oil-rich North African nation.

Bernadino Leon, UN special envoy for Libya, said at the outset of the talks on Wednesday that he hoped armed factions would observe a ceasefire to support the process.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Geneva, said several "important players" were not yet in attendance at the talks.

The talks are supposed to bring together delegates from the self-declared government which took over the capital Tripoli last year, as well as the internationally recognised government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni - and the armed forces allied to the rival administrations.

The new rulers of Tripoli said their legislature have postponed a decision over joining the Geneva talks until Sunday because of concerns about how the negotiations were organised.

Door remains open

Leon said the door would stay open and he was encouraged that several municipalities allied to Tripoli had decided to come.

The initial talks may last until Friday and could resume next week if the Tripoli faction decides to join, he said.

"We are proposing an agreement and we are proposing a new unity government to start solving their political differences," Leon said at a news conference.

"The second goal is to stop the fighting."

Libya has descended into chaos since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 after a NATO-backed revolt, with rival governments and fighters battling for territory.

The Tobruk-based internationally recognised government, which has lost control of much of the country, has pleaded for international help in combating the fighters.

On Tuesday, three Libyan soldiers were killed and four others wounded in a suicide car bombing on a road checkpoint west of Benghazi, according to a military official.

The Tobruk-based government's forces have been battling Islamist fighters for control of Benghazi for months.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies