News ID: 264441
Published: 0149 GMT January 17, 2020

Foreign powers to push Libyan rivals for truce in Berlin

Foreign powers to push Libyan rivals for truce in Berlin
GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTRY
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) shakes hands with Libya's commander Khalifa Haftar, in Benghazi, Libya, on January 16, 2020.

Germany and the United Nations will push rival Libyan camps and their foreign backers fighting over the capital to agree on Sunday to a truce and monitoring mechanism as first steps towards peace, diplomats and a draft communique said.

But the meeting in Berlin at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s headquarters will not try to broker power-sharing between the eastern-based forces and the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli, said diplomats briefed on preparations, Reuters reported.

The summit will put pressure on Khalifa Haftar and his eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) to halt a nine-month offensive against Fayez al-Serraj’s government in the coastal capital after a week-long lull in fighting.

About 140,000 people have been forced out of their homes.

Haftar and Serraj are both due in Berlin – along with leaders of Russia, Turkey, Egypt and other Western and Arab powers – in the latest bid to stabilize the OPEC member nation in turmoil since the 2011 fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Members of the transatlantic alliance NATO and Arab countries were instrumental in removing Gaddafi then, and foreign powers have again been the drivers of the aftermath, supplying drones, guns and ammunition to the factions.

Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Jordan as well as Sudanese and Chadian fighters. France has also given some support.

On the other side, Turkey has rushed to Serraj’s rescue by sending troops to balance out recent gains by the opposition. Hundreds of pro-Turkey militants from Syria’s war have also been deployed, diplomats say.

“Berlin is an opportunity to restart the political process and build on the pause in fighting,” said a Western diplomat.

A six-page draft communique seen by Reuters calls for “credible, verifiable, sequenced and reciprocal steps” starting with a truce to be monitored by technical committees.

That could involve beefing up the existing UN mission in Libya or deploying troops from Russia, Turkey or other states, the diplomats said. The draft vaguely mentioned long-delayed plans for elections and a national government, without any timeline, just calling for UN-led follow-up meetings.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Haftar and Serraj to come together in Berlin without adding conditions and blaming each other afterwards. “Relations between them are currently very tense, they don’t even want to be in the same room together,” he told reporters on Friday.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met Haftar on Friday and urged him to adopt a “constructive spirit” in Berlin. Athens, which opposes a recent Turkey-Libya pact on Mediterranean Sea boundaries, had wanted to participate in the summit.

Chaos in Libya has made it a hub for human traffickers to ship migrants to Italy, while militants have also exploited the disorder. The latest conflict has not, however, disrupted oil output at about 1.2 million barrels per day.

 

   
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