SKHIRAT, Morocco — Libya’s warring factions held United Nations-backed talks in Morocco on Thursday seeking to end the conflict between two rival governments that threatens to drive the North African oil state into civil war.
Airstrikes by rival forces had escalated before Thursday’s negotiations, and Western governments worried that the spreading chaos in Libya would allow Islamist militants to gain ground and pose a threat to mainland Europe across the Mediterranean.
Libya’s internationally recognized government and elected parliament have operated out of the east since an armed alliance known as Libya Dawn took over the capital, Tripoli, in the summer and set up a rival government.
Both governments are backed by heavily armed alliances of former rebels who fought together to oust strongman Moammar Gaddafi in 2011 but later fell out over control of oil wealth.
Western officials see the U.N. talks as the only hope to form a unity government and halt the fighting. But previous talks have yielded little.
“Key players are here and all those invited have come, so it is a good sign,” said Samir Ghattas, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Libya.
Rival delegates at the talks, held in the coastal town of Skhirat near Rabat, met separately with the U.N. mediators.