World powers agree new push for Libya peace, heed embargo

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 00:00 |
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres ahead of a summit on securing peace in Libya in Berlin, on Sunday. Photo/AFP

Berlin, Monday

World leaders committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya’s civil war at a Berlin summit Sunday, and to uphold a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the long-running conflict.

The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were among global chiefs signing up to the agreement to stop interfering in the war—be it through weapons, troops or financing.

But the talks failed to deliver “serious dialogue” between the warring parties— strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj—or to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce.

“Ensuring that a ceasefire is immediately respected is simply not easy to guarantee,” said summit host Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

“But I hope that through today’s conference, we have a chance the truce will hold further.”

Pompeo acknowledged that there are “still some questions on how well and effectively” the commitments can be monitored. 

But he said he is “optimistic that there will be less violence and an opportunity to begin the conversation that (UN special envoy) Ghassan Salame has been trying to get between the Libyan parties”.

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 uprising killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Most recently, Sarraj’s troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar’s forces.

Clashes have killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displaced tens of thousands, until a fragile ceasefire backed by both Ankara and Moscow was put in place on January 12.

Proxy war

Although Sarraj’s government is recognised by the UN, powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar—turning a domestic conflict into what some have described as a proxy war in which international powers jostle to secure their own interests.

Alarm grew in recent weeks after Turkey ordered in troops to shore up Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said the world powers had made “a strong commitment to stop” the conflict escalating into a regional confrontation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to some positive takeaways from the talks, but said the summit failed to launch necessary talks between Sarraj and Haftar.

“It is clear that we have not yet succeeded in launching a serious and stable dialogue between them,” Lavrov told reporters after the conference, where Haftar and Sarraj did not meet face to face. 

Nevertheless, the Libyan parties had taken “a small step” forward, Lavrov added.

Pro-Haftar forces upped the ante on the eve of the talks by blocking oil exports at Libya’s key ports, crippling the country’s main income source in protest at Turkey’s decision to send troops to shore up Sarraj.

Ahead of the talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Haftar, saying he needed to drop his “hostile attitude” if Libya is to have any chance at winning peace. —AFP

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