Tue, Jan 21, 2020 - Page 7 News List

World powers agree on new Libya deal

‘SMALL STEP’:A Russian official said that while there was some progress, ‘a serious and stable dialogue’ had not been established between Libya’s Haftar and al-Sarraj


World leaders at a Berlin summit on Sunday committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya’s civil war 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 were among global leaders signing up to the agreement to stop interfering in the war — be it through weapons, troops or financing.

However, the talks failed to deliver “serious dialogue” between the warring parties — Libyan National Army Commander Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognized government, Libyan Prime Minister 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, but I hope that through today’s conference, we have a chance the truce will hold further,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit’s host.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that there are “still some questions on how well and effectively” the commitments can be monitored.

Pompeo said he is “optimistic that there will be less violence and ... an opportunity to begin the conversation that [UN Ambassador to Libya] Ghassan Salame has been trying to get going between the Libyan parties.”

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Most recently, al-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, while displacing tens of thousands, until a fragile ceasefire backed by Ankara and Moscow was put in place on Jan. 12.

Although al-Sarraj’s government is recognized 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 al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

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

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov pointed to some positive takeaways from the talks, but said the summit failed to launch necessary talks between al-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 al-Sarraj did not meet face to face.

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

Pro-Haftar forces on the eve of the talks blocked 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 al-Sarraj.

In afternoon trade on Asian markets yesterday, oil prices rose more than 1 percent on supply concerns following the move.

The flaring oil crisis underlined the devastating impact of foreign influence in the conflict, in which al-Sarraj’s GNA is backed by Turkey and Qatar, while Haftar has the support of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Ahead of the talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Haftar needed to drop his “hostile attitude” if Libya is to have any chance at winning peace.

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