News ID: 264497
Published: 0229 GMT January 18, 2020

Foreign meddling in Libya must stop: UN envoy

Foreign meddling in Libya must stop: UN envoy

International interference in the Libyan conflict needs to end, the UN's special envoy told AFP on Saturday, on the eve of a summit of world powers to try to bring peace to the North African nation.

"All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That's one of the objectives of this conference," Ghassan Salame said in an interview ahead of the Berlin summit on Libya’s peace.

Leaders of Russia, Turkey and France are due to join talks in Berlin on Sunday held under the auspices of the United Nations, which wants to extract a pledge from foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop meddling in the conflict – be it by supplying weapons, troops or financing.

Both leaders of the warring factions – strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli's UN-recognized government Fayez al-Sarraj – are also expected at the first gathering of such scale on the conflict since 2018.

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi and toppled his regime.

More recently, Sarraj's troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar's forces, with clashes killing more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displacing tens of thousands.


'Vicious cycle'

Although Sarraj's government is recognized by the UN, some powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar.

Alarm grew internationally when Ankara ordered in troops early January to help shore up Sarraj, while Moscow is suspected of supporting Haftar – something Russia has denied.

"We must end this vicious cycle of Libyans calling for the help of foreign powers. Their intervention deepens the divisions among the Libyans," said Salame, noting that the place of international players should be to "help Libyans develop themselves".


The UN envoy said Sunday's meeting will also seek to "consolidate" a shaky cease-fire.

"Today we only have a truce. We want to transform it into a real cease-fire with monitoring, separation (of rival camps), repositioning of heavy weapons" outside urban zones, he said.

The UN had sought on multiple attempts to bid for peace, but talks have repeatedly collapsed.


Erdogan issues warning

On the eve of the Berlin talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Europe to stand united behind Sarraj's government, as Tripoli's fall could leave "fertile ground" for terror groups like Daesh or al-Qaeda "to get back on their feet".

Erdogan also played up Europe's fears of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis in his commentary for Politico news website, that further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for the continent.

Accusing France in particular of siding with Haftar, Erdogan said leaving Libya to the general would be a "mistake of historic proportions".

France has denied it was backing Haftar. But a diplomatic source noted that the fact that the general already controls 80 percent of Libya needed to be taken into account.

The European Union is watching with growing alarm at the escalating strife on its doorstep as it counts on Libya as a gatekeeper deterring migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.



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