Moscow is trying to become an arbiter between Haftar and Sarraj and position itself as an indispensable negotiator.
Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-backed government, has met renegade general Khalifa Haftar in the United Arab Emirates, in a rare meeting between the key figures from two rival Libyan camps.
The two men held face-to-face talks in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday “thanks to international and Arab mediation”, the LANA news agency said.
There was no official statement after the meeting, the second since Sarraj was named prime minister-designate after a UN-backed deal in late 2015.
But sources close to Haftar, head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, described the two-hour meeting as positive, according to a Reuters news agency report.
International powers have for months been pushing the two men to discuss resetting the UN-mediated agreement that led to the creation of Seraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
The deal, which gave no role in Libya’s future to Haftar, was an attempt to end the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
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.
Both men were expected to discuss army-related amendments to an agreement signed by the Libyan factions in Morocco in December 2015, according to Abu Bakr Baeira, a member of the Tobruk-based parliament in eastern Libya, which backs Haftar.
Libyan television broadcaster 218 reported that the two held talks “in private” after posing for a photograph together.
Emirati officials did not immediately comment.
— Mohamad Ali Harissi (@aleeharissi) May 2, 2017
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a close ally of Haftar, is scheduled to visit the UAE on Wednesday. It is unclear if he will be part of the talks.
Haftar, whose forces control much of the country’s east, has refused to recognise the authority of the UN-backed GNA since it started working in the Libyan capital in March 2016.
In February, Sarraj said that Haftar had refused to meet him in person in Cairo for Egypt-backed talks to discuss possible amendments to the UN-backed deal.
The army commander has established himself as a key player, especially after seizing the country’s key oil terminals in September.