UPDATE 2-UN-backed Libya talks fail to reach election consensus

(Overhaul with failed discussions, add final statement, quotes)

By Stéphanie Nebehay and Ahmed Elumami

GENEVA, July 2 (Reuters) – UN-sponsored talks to pave the way for elections in Libya at the end of December failed to find common ground, the mission deputy said on Friday evening United Nations in Libya after weeklong talks near Geneva.

Raisedon Zenenga, deputy secretary general and mission coordinator of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), called on participants to continue their efforts, calling the talks a “heated debate” marked by threats of walkout.

“The Libyan people will certainly feel disappointed because they still long for the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights during the presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24,” Zenenga said at the closing session.

“This does not bode well for the credibility and future relevance of the LPDF (Libyan Political Dialogue Forum),” he said. “I encourage you to continue to consult with each other to seek a workable compromise and cement what unites you.”

The talks, which were held at a hotel about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Geneva, were extended for a fifth day on Friday as delegates struggled to come to an agreement. They were to establish the constitutional basis for presidential and legislative elections by July 1.

But delegates and UN officials said they couldn’t agree among themselves on several outstanding proposals, prompting organizers to extend talks originally scheduled to last four days.

The elections would be a crucial step in international efforts to stabilize Libya, which has been in turmoil since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 against Muammar Gaddafi.

A UN-led peace process resulted in a ceasefire last summer after fighting between rival factions paused and then a unity government was formed.

The talks in Switzerland follow an international conference in Berlin last week.

United Nations envoy to Libya Jan Kubis said on Monday that leaving Switzerland without a decision this week was “not an option” given the timetable.

On Thursday, Kubis called today’s session “difficult” and urged delegates to refrain from “disrespectful behavior and personal attacks,” without giving details.

LPDF member Elham Saudi told Reuters on Friday: “This is not the outcome that many of us were hoping for, but it is the best outcome given the options that were on the table and the failure of UNSMIL leaders to keep talks on track. “

“It only delays the battle, but does not solve the problem,” she said. “Let us remember the interests of Libya and the Libyans who deserve elections.”

Progress towards a political solution in Libya has accelerated after the failure of Eastern Commander Khalifa Haftar’s 14-month assault on Tripoli last summer.

A formal ceasefire was reached in October and the following month, participants in the UN peace dialogue set a date for the elections and agreed to create a new interim government.

However, major risks persist with many armed groups holding power on the ground.

Haftar was supported by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt in its offensive in Tripoli. The internationally recognized government in Tripoli was supported by Turkey, which ultimately helped it repel the assault. (Additional reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Bill Berkrot)

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