WED 12 - 8 - 2020
Jan 14, 2020
The Daily Star
Libya’s rival leaders fail to reach accord
Haftar left Moscow without signing ceasefire deal
Agence France Presse
MOSCOW: Libya's eastern strongman General Khalifa Haftar has left Moscow without signing a ceasefire agreement to end nine months of fighting in the country, the Russian foreign ministry confirmed to AFP Tuesday.
Haftar on Monday evening asked for until Tuesday morning to look over the agreement already signed by the head of UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj, but left the Russian capital without signing, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Haftar declined to sign the ceasefire deal because it did not include a deadline for disbanding government forces, the Interfax news agency cited a Libyan military source as saying.
The two delegations from Libya spent seven hours Monday in an attempt to sign a deal outlining the terms of a permanent truce in Libya, following a ceasefire that took effect over the weekend.
Mediated by Russian and Turkish foreign and defense ministers, the talks did not include the warring sides meeting face to face, but Moscow said there was "progress" and that Haftar viewed the ceasefire document "positively".
Russian state media citing Libyan sources later said however that his plane departed Russia after a failure to reach a permanent agreement, leaving the fragile truce in uncertainty.
Western powers are keen to stabilise Libya -- home to Africa's largest proven crude reserves -- following years of turbulence since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Gaddafi.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday she planned to host a summit on Libya Sunday with the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Italy.
Turkey backs Haftar's rival, Serraj, while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside Haftar's LNA forces, which are also backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
Libya’s rival leaders fail to reach accord
Vladimir Isachenkov| Associated Press
MOSCOW: Talks in Moscow about bringing an end to Libya’s long-running civil war failed to reach a solution Monday and have been adjourned for the night. At the meeting, Libya’s rival governments considered a draft document spelling out details of a truce proposed jointly by Russia and Turkey that began Sunday.
Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli, and his rival Khalifa Haftar met with top diplomats and military officials from Russia and Turkey for the talks that lasted about seven hours. The negotiations were held behind closed doors, and Sarraj and Haftar didn’t meet directly.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Sarraj signed the draft agreement, while Haftar requested more time to consider it. “They have a positive view of the document and asked for extra time until the next morning to decide,” Lavrov said of Haftar and his delegation. “I hope they will make a positive decision. Russian and Turkish representatives will continue to offer their assistance.”
The truce brokered by Russia and Turkey marked the first break in fighting in months. There were immediate reports of violations by both sides, however, raising concerns it might not hold.
The civil war had been on the brink of a major escalation. Various foreign players back Libya’s rival governments, and they have recently been stepping up their involvement in the oil-rich nation’s conflict.
Libya plunged into turmoil after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The eastern government is supported by France, Russia and key Arab countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey, Italy and Qatar support the Tripoli government, which has faced an offensive by Haftar’s forces, which closed in on the capital.
Russia has maintained contacts with both conflicting parties in Libya, but the government in Tripoli has recently charged that Russian military contractors were fighting alongside Haftar.
Asked Saturday about Russian private security companies in Libya, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded that “if there are Russian citizens there, they do not represent the interests of the Russian state and do not receive any money from the Russian state.”
Putin noted that mercenaries were sent to Libya from Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib alongside Turkey’s border, voicing hope that a lasting truce will help end the deployment of foreign fighters to Libya.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this month that his country was sending military personnel to Libya to support Sarraj’s government. Sarraj visited Istanbul for talks with Erdogan Sunday before heading to Moscow.
The negotiations follow the deals struck by Russia and Turkey to coordinate their action in Syria, where Moscow has shored up President Bashar Assad’s government and Ankara has backed his foes.
Putin discussed the situation in Libya with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Moscow Saturday. The Russian leader welcomed Germany’s plan to hold a Libya peace summit in Berlin early this year.
In Putin’s conversations Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, they also emphasized their support of the planned summit in Berlin.
Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that preparations for a Libya conference in Berlin are “in the home stretch” after weeks of consultations. He said the plan is for it to be held in January, but things aren’t yet so far advanced that a date can be officially announced.
Turkey’s Erdogan, speaking at a joint news conference Monday with the Italian prime minister, said he was hopeful that the Moscow meeting would form the basis for the Berlin meeting.
“My wish is for a cease-fire on a solid foundation to be the basis of peace for the future of our Libyan siblings and Libyan friends,” he said.
Seibert indicated that Sunday is one possibility for the conference. He was responding to a question about a report by CNN Turk that Erdogan would visit Germany Sunday to attend the meeting. Erdogan’s office later confirmed that he will visit Sunday, but didn’t specify why.
“Such a Berlin conference could only be the start of a longer process, and it must of course ultimately be certain that Libyan interests are at the forefront,” Seibert said.
“Such a Berlin conference is certainly not the end of anything.”
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