UNITED NATIONS - Libyan parties have agreed to hold in Geneva next week a new round of United Nations-facilitated political talks aimed at helping all sides reach ‘common ground’ to end the current political and security crisis, the UN Mission in the strife-torn country announced Saturday.

The primary objective of the meeting, which will be hosted by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) at the United Nations Office at Geneva, will be to reach agreement on the management of the remainder of the transitional period, including the formation of a unity government that enjoys wide support, and pave the way for a stable environment for the constitutional process in which a new permanent constitution can be adopted.

In a press statement, UNSMIL noted that the discussions between the Libyan stakeholders will also seek to put in place the necessary security arrangements in order to bring an end to the armed hostilities raging in different parts of the country. The agreement to hold the next round of dialogue comes after wide-ranging and intensive consultations with the parties by UNSMIL chief Bernardino León over the past several weeks. To create a conducive environment for the dialogue, Mr. León has proposed to the parties to the conflict a ‘freeze’ in military operations for a few days.

As fighting between armed factions continued to rattle the war-weary North African nation, Mr. León warned just days ago that time was running out, and the longer efforts to tackle the crisis are delayed, the more difficult it would be to reach a solution to end the fighting, restore political and State institutional unity and revive the economy. Emphasizing that the political dialogue process is Libyan-led, and that the Mission’s facilitating role is to help in the search for common ground, UNSMIL stressed today that this new dialogue ‘is an important opportunity for the Libyans to restore stability and prevent the country’s slide towards deeper conflict and economic collapse that should not be missed.’

The Mission urged the main stakeholders to approach the fresh talks with courage and determination and put the national interest above all other considerations in this critical juncture in the country’s political transition, ‘abiding by the democratic principles of the 17th of February revolution that united the Libyan people and also united the international community in support of Libya.’ Libya’s civil war began in 2011 and resulted in the ouster of late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Moreover, More than three years after dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a Western-backed revolt, the North African nation is engulfed in chaos with rival governments and parliaments as well as powerful militias fighting for territory.

The Islamic State (IS) group that has seized large areas in Iraq and Syria is also thought to have gained a foothold in eastern Libya, and recently claimed to have executed two Tunisian journalists there. The European Union said the Geneva meeting ‘represents a last chance which must be seized’.

‘Libya is at a crucial juncture; the different actors should be in no doubt of the gravity of the situation that the country finds itself in. The opportunity to establish a ceasefire and find a political solution should not be wasted,’ said Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top diplomat.

A new round of talks had been scheduled for December 9 but was repeatedly delayed as fighting intensified between the internationally recognised government and Islamist-backed militias. Leon chaired a first round of talks between rival lawmakers in the oasis town of Ghadames in September.

The UN Security Council warned the following month that it would impose sanctions on any party that undermined the process. Difficulties finding a safe venue for the talks contributed to the delay to the new round, the UN said.

The Islamist-backed militia alliance that controls the capital and Libya’s third largest city Misrata launched an offensive last month to try to capture the country’s main eastern oil export terminals.

Loyalists of the internationally recognised government responded with their first air strikes on Misrata. On Saturday, five soldiers and eight Islamist militants were killed in fighting in Ain Marah, near the far eastern Islamist bastion of Derna, a government spokesman said.

The United Nations says that since fighting intensified in May, hundreds of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands more have fled their homes. Libya’s neighbours, fearful of a spillover of the violence, have repeatedly called for international intervention. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the Libyan capital in October for a trip aimed at bolstering talks between political parties.