The head of Libya's Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj, has arrived in the UAE at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, to discuss current developments in Libya and reconcile issues with General Khalifa Haftar.
Attempting to mediate between the two rival governments, the UAE had also invited the Libyan National Army (LNA) general to attend the talks, reportedly aimed at discussing mutual relations and the current crisis over the country's largest oilfield.
However Libyan sources claimed that despite arriving in Abu Dhabi, Haftar returned to Libya having refused to meet Al-Sarraj, who insisted on having a unified military placed under a civilian authority. Haftar has repeatedly rejected proposals to submit his self-styled army to the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli, arguing that the Presidential Council is fragile and weak.
Abu Dhabi, which has provided financial and political support to Haftar's government in Tobruk, also announced yesterday the state-owned National Oil Corp (NOC) had been invited to attend talks in a bid to reopen the El-Sharara oilfield, currently under the control of the LNA.
Haftar has called on the NOC to reopen the 315,000 barrel-a-day El-Sharara field which has been closed since state guards and tribesmen seized it in December, but NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla has rejected the demands, arguing that El-Sharara was not secure because the gunmen who had seized it were still present.
A statement released by the NOC yesterday said the upcoming talks would "discuss security measures necessary to find a solution to the Sharara crisis that guarantee staff safety, and pave the way for the lifting of force majeure at the field."
In 2014, Libya split between rival camps with Haftar gradually emerging as the dominant figure in the east aligned with a regional parliament and government, and opposing the internationally recognised government in the western capital, Tripoli.
The controversial Libyan general has been backed by Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Whilst the UAE publicly supports UN resolutions, their backing of Haftar has been attributed to their desire to bolster the Libyan commander as an alternative to the Islamist forces in the region, thought to be backed by Qatar and Turkey.
Last year, an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that UAE officials have also been involved in secret talks with Haftar to facilitate the export of oil outside of UN approved channels. Although attempts to facilitate independent oil sales through Emirati companies have been unsuccessful for the past two years, UAE support is believed to have emboldened Haftar to repeatedly take over oilfields and attempt to cut out the NOC.
Al-Sarraj and Haftar have met on several occasions over the past few years, most recently at the Palermo conference in November. However, despite talk of working towards an election, no new proposals were put forward, implicitly reinforcing the political and military status quo in the country.