Representatives of competing powers in Libya met this week in their first face to face under a new United Nations-sponsored plan.
The meeting kicks off a three-part action plan drawn up by Ghassan Salame, the recently appointed UN envoy who hopes the plan will lead to reconciliation between Fayez al- Sarraj's Tripoli-based government and the Gen. Khalifa Haftar-controlled east.
This meeting came on the same day Haftar was welcomed in Rome, which surprised some analysts because of Italy's previous refusal to have dealings with someone officials believed was unreliable.
Haftar this week also was accused of ordering his Libyan National Army troops to commit war crimes in an analysis by Ryan Goodman, a former Pentagon special counsel, and Alex Whiting, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.
Among the evidence the pair pointed to was a video posted on YouTube in 2015. According to The Guardian newspaper, Haftar told his men in the video, “Never mind consideration of bringing a prisoner here. There is no prison here. The field is the field, end of the story."
This is not new behavior, Barak Barfi, a long time expert on Libya and research fellow with the New America Foundation think tank, said. Barfi said Haftar has a documented record of human-rights abuses, including in Chad and his own country in the 1980s.
"What they are saying now is he committed war crimes," Barfi said. "That is just in line with who he is."
"For human rights activists and the pro-democracy activists, this is not a guy you want to be doing business with," Barfi added. "The realists are saying you have to do business with him because he dealing with the Islamists."
The Islamic State group is reported to have regrouped in the country in recent weeks.
Haftar's iron-clad control of the eastern part of the country means he has to be part of any attempts at an agreement between the warring parties in the conflict zone, as most of the international community appears now to believe, including Italy.
”The Action Plan's national conference is not a new institution,” UN envoy Saleme ahead of Tuesday's meeting in Tunis. “It’s a moment for reconciliation to bring everyone together including those who did not participate, or didn't want to participate in the political process.”