Eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar said Tuesday he will not join other key players at Palermo talks to try to stabilise the North African nation, casting a shadow over the latest global bid to kick-start a long-stalled political process and trigger elections.
His comments came after a meeting in Palermo with Libya's rival leaders and top officials from Europe, Russia, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.
HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani has taken part in the International Conference on Libya, hosted by the Italian city of Palermo.
Italy had hoped U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would attend, but they and a number of other invited leaders sent lower-ranking representatives.
Other sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haftar had held a secret meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at his Rajma headquarters in Libya in a last-ditch effort to convince him to attend the conference.
However, Turkey withdrew from the talks with "deep disappointment".
And Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay pulled out before it ended, citing his exclusion from the morning mini-summit.
There were no announcements of major diplomatic breakthroughs, but Serraj's spokesman said on Twitter the prime minister was committed to a United Nations road map to hold an election in the spring after a constitutional framework is put in place.
The rival leaders have not met since May. Last week, the UN's Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, confirmed that elections were likely to be postponed until spring 2019.
Just as in May, the key Libyan invitees are Haftar, the eastern parliament's speaker Aguila Salah, GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj and Khaled al-Mechri, speaker of a Tripoli-based upper chamber.
Italy and France have strong business ties in Libya and their growing rivalry, analysts say, is hurting peace prospects.
Rome and Paris have for months been at loggerheads over Libya's election timetable.