CAIRO — Officials from Libya's rival governments met Tuesday for talks aimed at unifying the national budget, officials said, another step forward in efforts to end the yearslong conflict in the oil-rich country.
Finance minister of the U.N.-supported government based in the capital Tripoli, Faraj Bumatari, and his counterpart from the eastern Libya-based administration, Muraja Ghaith, attended the meeting.
Also attending was Tripoli-based Foreign Minister Muhammed Tahir Siyala.
Libya is split between a U.N.-supported government in Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias, as well as regional and foreign powers.
A statement by the Tripoli-based Finance Ministry said the sides would work on a final draft for the 2021 national budget in the coming days. The draft would be presented to a transitional government that will be established to lead the country to presidential and parliamentary elections late this year.
Siyala, the Tripoli-based foreign minister, said in video comments posted by the ministry's official account that a joint team would carry out the agreed-on budget arrangements according to estimated resources this year. He did not elaborate.
The U.N. support mission in Libya, or UNSMIL, called the meeting an "encouraging and much-needed step" and urged both sides to prepare the budget in "a transparent manner."
"The unification and rationalization of the national budget is crucial to establishing a more durable and equitable economic arrangement," it said.
Tuesday's meeting in the strategic eastern oil town of Brega came a month after Libya's Central Bank approved a single official exchange rate for its currency at 4.8 dinars per U.S. dollar.
The advisory committee of the Libyan political dialogue forum was to meet Wednesday in Geneva to provide recommendations for resolving disputes over a mechanism for choosing the transitional government, the U.N. mission said.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, urged the committee to put aside the interests of some Libyan and foreign parties and work to reach a deal to form the transitional government. He didn't name the parties he was referring to.
The Geneva meeting comes "at a critical juncture," Norland said, adding that the opportunity "will not last forever."
The forum reached an agreement late last year to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24 this year. However, it failed to break a deadlock on a selection mechanism for the executive authority despite numerous online meetings since their face-to-face talks in Tunisia in November.
The mission called for "genuine efforts" in the political track of the U.N.-brokered talks to form a unified government.
The forum is part of the U.N. efforts to end the chaos that has engulfed the oil-rich North African nation since the 2011 overthrow and killing of Gadhafi.