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Morocco hosts Libya peace talks


United Nations-brokered peace talks aimed at resolving the political turmoil in Libya have started in Morocco, hours after the airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli was bombed.

Libya’s UN-recognised government based in the eastern city of Tobruk dispatched warplanes to carry out the air strikes on the airport in Tripolii, which is currently governed by a rival administration.

The jets hit an open area near the runway at Maitiga airport on Thursday morning but caused no major damage and the airport was operating normally, a security source at the airport told the Reuters news agency.

Libya’s legislators are split between the government in Tobruk and the General National Congress, a rival legally-installed government in Tripoli.

The political turmoil fuelled rival militias and allowed fighters claiming association with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group to gain control of the cities of Sirte and Darna.

The UN is brokering the Morocco talks among the various factions and the two governments, with two other sessions planned in Algeria and Brussels next week.

The UN-recognised government has agreed to halt air strikes for three days to help the peace talks.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Morocco’s capital Rabat, said that the Tripoli-based government had cautiously welcomed the announcement and said its legislators had been given a mandate to push strongly for a peace deal during the talks.

Deal ‘possible’

Western officials see the UN talks in Morocco as the only hope of forming a unity government and halting the fighting. But previous talks have yielded little.

“There is a sense, of, if it’s not optimism, at least a sense that it is possible to make a deal, and that is something very important because in the last months, this was not the case,” UN envoy Bernardino Leon told reporters after the first session.

Delegates at the talks in the coastal town of Skhirate near Rabat met separately with the UN mediators. The talks agenda includes a unity government and security.

The talks began a day after Libya’s state-run National Oil declared itself inoperable at 11 oil fields after a series of attacks by rebels purportedly linked to ISIL.

The force majeure – a legal step shielding the company from liability if it cannot fulfil contracts for reasons beyond its control – was announced on Wednesday shortly after gunmen attacked the Dahra oil field near Libya’s central coast.

The attack on the oil field prompted a counterattack by government forces that included air strikes, said Mashallah al-Zewi, oil minister of the country’s Tripoli-based government.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies