TUNIS (Reuters) - Political talks on Libya's future have reached agreement on holding elections within 18 months, the United Nations acting Libya envoy said on Wednesday, hailing a "breakthrough" in a peacemaking process that still faces great obstacles.
"There's real momentum and that's what we need to focus on and encourage," envoy Stephanie Williams said at a news conference in Tunis, where 75 Libyan participants chosen by the United Nations have been meeting since Monday.
The meeting has reached preliminary agreement on a roadmap to "free, fair, inclusive and credible parliamentary and presidential elections" that also includes steps to unite institutions, she said.
Libya has been in chaos since 2011 and divided since 2014 between rival factions in east and west, with major institutions also split or controlled by armed groups.
The internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) holds power in the capital Tripoli, while Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) holds sway in the east.
With both sides riven by political, regional and ideological divisions among the armed factions that back them, and with foreign powers pouring in arms and mercenaries, many Libyans remain sceptical of peacemaking efforts.
However, the Tunis talks follow a ceasefire that the GNA and LNA agreed last month in Geneva.
On Thursday, a joint military commission they established in the flashpoint city of Sirte to hammer out the details of the truce will consider adopting proposals for both sides to withdraw from frontlines.
Thursday's talks in Tunis will focus on a new unified transitional government to oversee the run-up to elections, with participants discussing its "prerogatives and competencies", Williams said.
The new government would have to quickly address deteriorating public services and corruption, two issues that prompted protests on both sides of the frontlines this summer, she added.
The roadmap also outlines steps to begin a process of national reconciliation, transitional justice and address the plight of displaced people, Williams said.
She said Tuesday's assassination of dissident lawyer Hanan al-Barassi in Benghazi "reminds us of the need for Libyans to really end this long period of crisis and division and fragmentation and impunity".
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)
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