EU To Launch New Mission On Libya Arms Embargo Enforcement

 

The EU will launch its new naval mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya by the end of the month, after member states agreed its terms on Thursday.

Diplomatic sources told AFP that ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved the mission, dubbed Operation Irini after the Greek word for peace, after clearing last-minute objections.

Greece has agreed to be the landing point for any migrants rescued in the course of the mission, though its primary purpose is to enforce the embargo.

An effective arms embargo is seen as crucial to stabilising Libya, where the UN-recognised Tripoli government is under attack from the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the country’s south and east.

The new mission replaces Operation Sophia, set up in 2015 to fight people-smuggling across the Mediterranean at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis.

What to do with any migrants picked up during Irini’s operations was the last major sticking point, with Italy earlier this week insisting it would not receive them.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Forcing Parents To Skip Kids’ Vaccinations – UNICEF

EU naval vessels, provided and crewed by member state navies, will operate in the eastern Mediterranean with the authority to board ships suspected of delivering arms, a diplomatic source said.

Irini will start when Sophia ends on March 31, with a renewable one-year mandate, though ministers will review it every four months to check it is not having a “pull effect” — encouraging migrants to set out on risky crossings over the Mediterranean.

The agreement in February was finally reached over objections from Austria and Hungary, which feared that reviving the mission would create a de facto rescue fleet that would ferry migrants across the sea to Europe.

AFP

Libya’s Warring Parties Suggest Draft Ceasefire Agreement – UN

Libyans wave their national flag as they take part in a celebration marking the Libyan revolution, which toppled strongman Moamer Kadhafi, in Benghazi on February 17, 2020. Abdullah DOMA / AFP
Libyans wave their national flag as they take part in a celebration marking the Libyan revolution, which toppled strongman Moamer Kadhafi, in Benghazi on February 17, 2020. Abdullah DOMA / AFP

 

Libya’s warring sides have proposed a draft ceasefire agreement that would see the United Nations monitor the safe return of civilians to their homes, the UN said Monday.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it would facilitate the ceasefire process alongside a military commission with members from both sides.

The announcement came after a second round of indirect military talks in Geneva between Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

The talks, mediated by UN envoy Ghassan Salame, are aimed at brokering lasting ceasefire to fighting that has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced some 140,000 since last April, according to the UN.

Several rounds of talks focused on economic issues, including fairer distribution of Libya’s oil wealth, have also taken place in Egypt and Tunisia, and talks towards a political solution are scheduled to start in Geneva on Wednesday.

UNSMIL said it and the two parties had “prepared a draft ceasefire agreement to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas with the implementation of a joint monitoring mechanism”.

“The two parties agreed to present the draft agreement to their respective leaderships for further consultations and to meet again next month,” the statement said.

The next meeting would be dedicated to drawing up terms of reference for the committee in charge of the implementation of the agreement, it said.

Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival armed factions still vying for power.

In the latest outbreak of fighting, Haftar launched his offensive on Tripoli last April but after rapid advances his forces stalled on the edges of the capital.

AFP

Libyan Commander Ready To Fight Turkish Forces If Peace Talks Fail

This handout picture released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on January 13, 2020 shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcoming Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar in Moscow.
HO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP

 

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar vowed on Friday to fight Turkish forces if peace talks in Geneva failed, in comments to a Russian news agency.

The eastern military commander, who is backed by Russia, gave the interview to RIA Novosti after meeting Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday.

“If talks in Geneva do not achieve peace and security for our country, if mercenaries do not return to where they were brought from, the armed forces will fulfil their constitutional obligations… to defend against the Turkish Ottoman invaders,” Haftar said in translated comments.

Talks between the warring parties in Geneva ended earlier this month with no result.

A second-round began Tuesday, but broke down after rocket fire hit a port in Tripoli. Talks then resumed Thursday.

The oil-rich country has been mired in chaos since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Haftar launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April.

Turkey supports the UN-recognised government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, with whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November signed a deal on security, maritime and military cooperation.

“As we’ve said, our patience is at the limit due to the regular violations of the ceasefire by groups of fighters hired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Libyan Prime Minister Sarraj,” Haftar said, accusing them of failing to fulfil promises they made in Berlin.

At a Berlin summit last month, countries including Russia, Turkey, France and Egypt agreed to end foreign interference in Libya and respect a UN arms embargo.

Haftar added that his forces “are assessing the situation in Tripoli, are in contact with the international sides and are ready for all options.”

Moscow and Ankara together brokered a tenuous truce in Libya last month. The two sides agreed to end fighting, but the ceasefire has been violated.

Haftar said Friday that his conditions for a ceasefire were “withdrawal of Syria and Turkish mercenaries, Turkey stopping supplies of weapons to Tripoli and the liquidation of terrorist groups.”

The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, said Thursday that his mission to secure a lasting ceasefire and eventually a political solution was “very difficult” but “possible.”

 

AFP

UN Asked To Vote In Support Of Libya Ceasefire – Diplomats

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

The UN Security Council was asked Tuesday to vote on a resolution supporting a ceasefire in Libya, in what would be the first binding text adopted since fighting flared in April last year.

The United Kingdom, which has been drafting a text for three weeks, called for the vote to take place on Wednesday, diplomatic sources said.

The position of Russia, which blocked a draft resolution last week, is unknown.

The resolution “affirms the need for a lasting ceasefire in Libya at the earliest opportunity, without pre-conditions.”

It aims to end fighting between the UN-recognized government Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Since April 2019, the GNA has fought back against an offensive by fighters loyal to Haftar, who is supported by several countries including Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France.

The UN has accused foreign actors of intensifying the conflict and violating an arms embargo on the war-torn country.

The draft that will be voted on no longer contains any mention of the Security Council’s concerns over the involvement of “mercenaries” in Libya.

Russia blocked a draft resolution on February 5 due to inclusion of the word “mercenary” in the text.

Moscow is accused of sending several thousand mercenaries from the private Russian security company Wagner to support Haftar, who controls much of the south and east of Libya.

Russia denies involvement.

The British draft invites the African Union, Arab League and European Union to help supervise the proposed ceasefire.

It calls for the continuation of talks between representatives of Libya’s warring parties.

Discussions in Geneva ended on Saturday with no deal on a ceasefire but the UN has proposed a second round of negotiations for February 18.

The text confirms commitments made by world leaders at a summit in Berlin last month to ending all foreign interference in the country and to uphold a weapons embargo.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame has said the commitments are being violated.

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by fighting between rival factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi and toppled his regime.

War Dominates Africa Summit As Leaders Vow Libya Support

(L-R front row) Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Antonio Guterres United Nations Secretary-General observe a moment of silence for Kenya’s former President, Daniel Arap Moi, at the opening of the African heads of States at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on February 9, 2020.  AFP

 

African Union leaders vowed on Monday to push peace efforts in Libya, a sign of the bloc’s desire to play a bigger role in resolving the continent’s conflicts.

The AU leadership has complained about being overlooked in Libya-related peacemaking efforts, which have been led primarily by the UN and heavily involved European nations.

As the 55-member group wrapped up a summit, Smail Chergui, the AU’s Peace and Security Council chief, offered assistance to revive Libya’s faltering peace process.

“It’s (the) UN itself which needs us now,” Chergui said. “It’s time to bring this situation to an end… the two organisations should work hand-in-hand for that goal,” he added.

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over as AU chair on Sunday, has said Libya is one of two conflicts he wants to focus on during his tenure.

The other is South Sudan, where a civil war that began in 2013 has left hundreds of thousands dead — but talks on the sidelines of the AU summit ended in deadlock.

The two-day summit ended in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with the traditional closing session and press conference cancelled. The decisions adopted were expected to be announced later Tuesday.

 Divisions and disagreements 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday said he understood the AU’s “frustration” at having “been put aside” when it comes to Libya.

The North African state remains in chaos, mostly split between strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls eastern Libya, and the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

Talks between Libya’s warring factions ended on Saturday with no deal on a ceasefire. The UN has proposed a second round of negotiations for February 18.

Chergui said the AU could support peace if a cessation of hostilities agreement is finally signed, declaring the AU wanted to be part of an observer mission to ensure any deal is respected.

“This is an African problem, and we have a certain sense that maybe others do not have,” Chergui said.

Despite AU optimism, analysts are sceptical.

Observers pointed out that the AU will need to overcome financial constraints and internal divisions if it wants to achieve its goal of “Silencing the Guns” — the theme of summit talks.

“The AU bandwidth on Libya cannot in any way be compared to the UN’s involvement, just in simple terms of knowledge and presence on the ground,” said Claudia Gazzini, from the International Crisis Group think-tank.

 A tough line on South Sudan 

Meanwhile, on South Sudan, leaders tried to bring longtime rivals together to reach a deal.

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar face a deadline of February 22 to form a unity government — a milestone that was delayed twice last year.

Ramaphosa met separately with Kiir and Machar on Saturday, and the rivals sat down in the same room Sunday alongside Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.

Hamdok is the current chair of the eight-member East African bloc IGAD, which has taken the lead in South Sudan peace negotiations.

But the flurry of activity on the sidelines of the AU summit did not result in a breakthrough in the dispute over the number of regional states in South Sudan — a contentious issue as the borders will set out divisions of power and control in the young country.

IGAD said that despite the lack of progress to date there could be no more delays in forming a power-sharing government.

AFP

PHOTOS: New Batch Of 161 Nigerians Return From Libya

 

Another batch of 161 Nigerians has returned from Mitiga in Libya, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The NEMA Acting Coordinator, Lagos Territorial Office, Ibrahim Farinloye, received the returnees who landed the country at 9:15pm on Thursday.

According to Farinloye, the returnees came back courtesy of the European Union and the International Organization of Migration (IOM) aboard AL Buraq air with flight number UZ189 and registration number 5A-DMA.

The returnees comprised of 48 female adults, four female children, five female infants, 102 male adults, one male child, and one infant male.

Other agencies that were present to welcome them from the North African nation include the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Police, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and National Commission for Refugees and Migration.

The recent batch of returnees means 14,045 Nigerians are back to the country with 8,200 of them males and 5,845 females.

READ ALSO: Illegal Migration: 15,731 Nigerians Returned From 16 Countries In Two Years – NEMA

One of the returnees, Mercy Olatinde (not real names), from Akure, Ondo State, while narrating her ordeal, revealed that she left the country while she was 19.

According to her, she spent one year and three months before she decided to return to Nigeria, explaining that she left the country due to pressure on her.

Olatinde said her mum had mental health issues and the father of her child left just as she had to take care of her siblings, also.

“My mum relations and friends abandoned us. I was a tailoring apprentice after my hubby left us,” she said. “My mum was thrown out of the house we were living because we could not afford to pay the rent. Feeding became serious problems.”

Speaking further she said, “My siblings could not continue schooling, they dropped out of school. No one was there for us. I had no alternative to seeking more opportunities outside when I was told that I could secure good jobs.

“But it was unfortunate that the so-called good job was meant to destroy our future. Most of our ladies are located in Connection job while handful in Arabu works.”

She claimed “Arab work is like housemaid who goes with unpleasant experience from torture to overworking into very late hours and waking up very early. Connection job is something that ladies exposed to that will not like to talk about.

“The worst of it all is that all efforts to raise money become fruitless as militants or police can bust into our houses, rob us of our belongings and go away with everything we had worked for over there.”

Furthermore, she lamented that “Trying to send something back through a Nigeria, you have to pay the amount you wish to send, a Nigerian will collect cash and ask his relative in Nigeria to send half of the amount to the person that the money is meant for.

“I will never encourage anyone to embark on this type of perilous journey as it is just a waste of one’s life for the periods spent on this type of journey though it is an experience a very bad one.

“I need assistance to start off my life, my mum is better off health-wise and she is hawking pure water now.

“I learn IOM and other organizations are helping people like us, I want to complete my fashion designing by apprenticeship but need to source for means of feeding while I am under apprenticeship.”

Below are more photos from the airport where the returnees were received by NEMA officials.

Libya Suspends Flights For Hours After Rocket Blast

FILES) A file photo taken on October 29, 2019, shows a view of the Libyan capital Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

 

Rocket fire targeted the Libyan capital’s sole functioning airport on Wednesday, dealing another setback to peace efforts a day before regional foreign ministers meet in Algeria to discuss the crisis.

Tripoli’s Mitiga airport was forced to suspend all flights for several hours after it was targeted by six Grad rockets, just nine days after it reopened following a truce.

The airport has been hit multiple times since the start of an offensive by forces led by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar to seize the capital from the Government of National Accord (GNA).

World powers have stepped up efforts in recent weeks to find a political solution to the grinding conflict, with neighbouring Algeria to become the latest country to host a meeting Thursday to discuss ways forward.

The Algerian foreign ministry said chief diplomats from Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Mali would meet in Algiers to advance “a political settlement to the crisis through an inclusive dialogue between all parties”.

Algeria, which has stayed neutral in the Libyan conflict, shares a border of almost 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) with its neighbour, rocked by violence since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi by NATO-backed insurgents.

The meeting comes after a summit last Sunday in Berlin, which saw world leaders commit to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to upholding a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the conflict.

The two sides also agreed to form a military commission charged with finding ways to reach a long-term truce.

It should include five members each from the United Nations-recognised government in Tripoli and from Haftar’s forces, which back a rival administration in Benghazi.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council urged the parties to reach a ceasefire deal paving the way for a political process aimed at ending the conflict in the North African country.

 ‘New violation’ 

Despite repeated appeals from the UN’s envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, Tripoli’s GNA-held airport has been the target of several air raids and rocket strikes since Haftar’s forces launched their offensive.

Located east of the capital, Mitiga is a former military airbase used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport was heavily damaged in fighting in 2014.

GNA forces spokesman Mohammed Gnunu branded the strikes as a “flagrant threat” to the safety of air traffic and a “new violation” of the most recent ceasefire.

Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they target “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.

The GNA has denied those accusations.

Turkey has backed the GNA, deploying troops to Libya since early January under a controversial November deal with the Tripoli-based administration.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected in the Algerian capital on Sunday at the start of a two-day visit also tied to the Libyan conflict.

Germany’s top diplomat Heiko Maas is also expected in Algiers Thursday, the Algerian foreign ministry said.

Algiers has hosted a string of foreign leaders and envoys for talks on the crisis, including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the top diplomats of Egypt, Italy, Turkey and former colonial power France.

AFP

World Leaders Gather In Germany To Seek Elusive Libya Peace

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso upon his arrival to attend the Peace summit on Libya at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 19, 2020.
John MACDOUGALL / AFP

 

World leaders gather in Berlin on Sunday to make a fresh push for peace in Libya, in a desperate bid to stop the conflict-wracked nation from turning into a “second Syria”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will be joined by the presidents of Russia, Turkey and France and other world leaders for talks from around 2:00 pm (1300 GMT) held under the auspices of the United Nations.

The summit’s main goal is to get foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop interfering in the war — be it through weapons, troops or financing.

Leaders of both warring factions — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — are also expected at what is the first such gathering since 2018.

READ ALSO: Erdogan Hopeful For ‘Important Step’ In Libya Ceasefire

Speaking to reporters before leaving Istanbul for Berlin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the summit could be “an important step on the way to cementing the ceasefire and a political solution” in Libya.

But pro-Haftar forces upped the ante ahead 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’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

The move underlined the devastating impact of foreign influence in the crisis.

“Libya needs all foreign interference to stop,” the United Nations’ special envoy Ghassan Salame told AFP.

 

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar (2ndR) is surrounded by security personnel as he gets out of his car upon his arrival at his hotel in Berlin on January 18, 2020, on the eve of a peace conference on Libya to be held at the Chancellery.
Christian SPICKER / AFP

The UN hopes all sides will sign up to a plan to refrain from interference, and commit to a truce that leads to a lasting end to hostilities, according to a draft of a final communique seen by AFP.

That document also urges all parties to re-commit to a much-violated UN arms embargo and raises the prospect of intra-Libyan political talks in Geneva at the end of the month.

If all goes to plan, the Berlin participants will hold an evening press conference.

But the summit has already ruffled feathers, with several countries in the region fuming at being left out, including Greece, Morocco, and Tunisia.

‘Second Syria’

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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

Clashes 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.

At follow-up talks in Moscow, Sarraj agreed to a permanent truce but Hafter walked away without signing the deal.

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

Alarm grew internationally after Erdogan ordered troops to Libya early January to bolster Sarraj.

Underlining the stakes involved, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “we have to make sure Libya doesn’t become a second Syria.”

Sarraj meanwhile issued a call for international “protection troops” if Haftar were to keep up his offensive.

“Such a protection force must operate under the auspices of the United Nations. Experts will have to advise who should participate, such as the EU or the African Union or the Arab League”, he told Die Welt newspaper on Sunday.

He also criticised the EU, saying it had not been proactive enough on Libya.

“Unfortunately the role of the EU so far has been very modest… even though some EU countries have a special relationship with Libya, we are neighbours and have many interests in common,” he said.

Lip service?

Erdogan has repeatedly urged Europe to stand united behind Sarraj’s government, warning that Tripoli’s fall could allow jihadist groups like the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda to regroup.

He has also warned that further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for Europe.

For Turkey, a fall of Sarraj’s GNA could jeopardise a maritime boundary agreement the parties signed. It gives Ankara extensive rights over the eastern Mediterranean where the recent discovery of undersea gas reserves has triggered a scramble by littoral states.

But Haftar is backed by Turkey’s fiercest regional rivals — Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Erdogan has also accused Russia of sending in mercenaries to help Haftar, as Moscow seeks to extend its influence in the region.

The International Crisis Group’s Libya expert Claudia Gazzini said the Berlin conference “could be a modest step forward” on the path to peace.

“Yet the risk remains that some participants will merely pay lip service to the diplomatic initiative, even as they continue to fuel a war from which they benefit.”

AFP

Erdogan Hopeful For ‘Important Step’ In Libya Ceasefire

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech as he stands in front of a huge screen during the Annual Evaluation Meeting for 2019 at the Bestepe National Congress and Culture Center in Ankara on January 16, 2020.
Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said he hoped for an “important step” to cement Libya’s fragile ceasefire at an international peace conference in Germany.

“We see the Berlin summit as an important step on the way to cementing the ceasefire and a political solution,” Erdogan told reporters at an Istanbul airport before leaving to attend the talks.

Progress in peace efforts after the January ceasefire “should not be sacrificed to the ambitions of blood and chaos merchants”, he said.

Libyan Strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive last April against Tripoli, the seat of the UN recognised Government of National Accord.

After months of combat killing more than 2,000 people, a ceasefire took effect on January 12 backed by both Turkey and Russia, which is accused of supporting Haftar.

READ ALSO: Trump Lawyers Present Defense For ‘Dangerous’ Impeachment

Ankara strongly supports the Tripoli government led by Fayez al-Sarraj and sent troops to Libya after signing military and maritime deals with the GNA.

Erdogan, who is already angry over Haftar’s abandoning ceasefire talks in Moscow early this week, also slammed Greece for hosting the Libyan commander.

Haftar paid a surprise visit to Athens on Thursday.

Erdogan accused Greece of acting with “revenge” after it was not invited to the Berlin talks.

“Greece is seriously disturbed because it was not invited to Germany,” Erdogan said.

And he said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was playing a “wrong game” and taking “wrong steps” on Libya.

AFP

Libya Strongman Leaves Moscow Without Signing Ceasefire Deal

This handout picture released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on January 13, 2020 shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) welcoming Libya's military strongman Khalifa Haftar (L) in Moscow. HO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP
This handout picture released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on January 13, 2020 shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) welcoming Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar (L) in Moscow. HO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP

 

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar left Moscow on Tuesday without signing a ceasefire agreement aimed at ending nine months of fighting, leaving the future of a fragile truce uncertain.

The commander’s abrupt departure in the early hours of Tuesday was a setback for an international diplomatic push in recent days, though Moscow insisted it would continue mediation efforts.

Haftar and his allies were in Moscow on Monday for talks with the UN-recognised government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj and based in Tripoli.

Sarraj’s government has been under attack since last April from forces loyal to Haftar, who is based in the east of the oil-rich North African country with his own loyalist politicians.

The two sides agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey that took effect at the weekend and were in Moscow to sign a long-term agreement.

The talks raised hopes of an end to the latest fighting to wrack Libya since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

READ ALSO: Libya Warlords Meet In Moscow To Sign Ceasefire Deal

But after seven hours of negotiations, only Sarraj had signed on to the agreement and Russian officials confirmed to AFP that Haftar’s delegation had left without signing the deal.

“We will pursue our efforts in this direction. For now, a definitive result has not been achieved,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Sri Lanka.

Russia, European powers and Libya’s neighbours “are working in the same vein and motivating all Libyan sides to agree rather than continue sorting things out by force”, Lavrov said.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a source in Haftar’s stronghold Benghazi as saying he did not sign because the agreement did not spell out a timeline for disbanding groups allied with Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

Opposing sides

Western powers are keen to stabilise Libya — home to Africa’s largest proven crude reserves — following years of turbulence since the 2011 killing of Kadhafi.

Since the start of the offensive against Tripoli, more than 280 civilians and about 2,000 fighters have been killed and 146,000 Libyans displaced, according to the United Nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a joint call for a ceasefire, which started at midnight Sunday and was welcomed by the United Nations.

The leaders of Turkey and France on Monday called for a more permanent truce which would pave the way for a political process, while Germany was preparing a summit on Libya this month.

Putin late on Monday discussed the talks in Moscow with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said, following her visit to Moscow Saturday.

Turkey and Russia’s diplomatic initiative came despite the countries being seen as supporting opposing sides.

Ankara dispatched troops — in a training capacity, it said — to support the GNA in January in a move criticised by European powers and US President Donald Trump.

The GNA has signed agreements with Ankara assigning Turkey rights over a vast area of the eastern Mediterranean, in a deal denounced by France, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus.

Russia has been accused of backing pro-Haftar forces, which are supported by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — all regional rivals of Turkey.

Several hundred Russian mercenaries are reported to be in Libya supporting Haftar. Putin said any Russians in the country are not in Moscow’s pay.

 

AFP

Libya Warlords Meet In Moscow To Sign Ceasefire Deal

A fighter loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) walks past a vehicle in an area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 12, 2020. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

 

The heads of Libya’s warring sides were to meet in Moscow on Monday to sign a ceasefire deal ending nine months of heavy fighting.

The meeting follows a diplomatic push by Turkey and Russia, which is keen to bolster its status as a powerbroker in the Middle East and step into a diplomatic void left by what observers see as a partial US retreat.

The two sides are expected to sign an agreement on the terms of a ceasefire that took effect over the weekend, raising hopes of an end to the fighting that has wracked the oil-rich North African country since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, has been under attack since last April from forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the east of the country.

Haftar and Sarraj were to meet in Moscow for talks along with “representatives of other Libyan sides”, the Russian foreign ministry said, with Turkey and Russia’s foreign and defence ministers acting as mediators.

Russian news agencies reported representatives of the two sides had arrived for talks, but it was unclear if Haftar and Sarraj would meet face-to-face.

The ceasefire initiative was launched by President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who jointly called for a truce in Istanbul last week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Putin on Saturday and he supported her drive to hold a peace conference sponsored by the United Nations in Berlin soon.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was also due in Turkey on Monday to discuss the situation in Libya with Erdogan.

‘Turn page on past’

Sarraj on Monday called on Libyans to “turn the page on the past, reject discord and to close ranks to move towards stability and peace”.

His comments came after a ceasefire began at midnight on Sunday (2200 GMT on Saturday) in line with Putin and Erdogan’s joint call.

Sarraj confirmed the ceasefire had taken effect.

Since the start of the offensive against Tripoli, more than 280 civilians and about 2,000 fighters have been killed and 146,000 Libyans displaced, according to the United Nations.

Turkey and Russia’s diplomatic offensive came despite the countries being seen as supporting opposing sides.

Ankara dispatched troops — in a training capacity, it said — to support the GNA in January in a move criticised by leading European powers including Britain and France and US President Donald Trump.

Russia has been accused of backing pro-Haftar forces, which are supported by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — all regional rivals of Turkey.

Several hundred Russian mercenaries are reported to be in Libya supporting Haftar but Putin said on Saturday that any Russians in the country were not in Moscow’s pay.

‘Second Syria’

The head of Libya’s High Council of State, Khaled al-Mechri, said the ceasefire would pave the way for the revival of the political process.

The head of Russia’s contact group to Tripoli, Lev Dengov, said the two rivals would have to determine in the Russian capital “the terms of the future settlement in Libya, including the possibility of signing an agreement on the ceasefire and its details”.

“They will have separate meetings with Russian officials and emissaries of the Turkish delegation, which is cooperating with Russia on this issue,” said Dengov, quoted by Russian news agencies.

“Representatives of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt will probably be present as observers at the talks.”

Europe and North Africa have also launched a diplomatic offensive to try to prevent Libya, with the increased involvement of international players in its conflict, from turning into a “second Syria”.

European governments, including former colonial power Italy, fear that Islamist militants and migrant smugglers, already highly active in Libya, will take further advantage of the chaos.

King Abdullah of Jordan on Monday warned that thousands of fighters have left Syria for Libya and “that is something we in the region but also our European friends will have to address in 2020”.

 

AFP

Erdogan Says Turkish Soldiers Are Deploying To Libya

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan / AFP

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Turkish soldiers had begun deploying to Libya after parliament approved such a move last week.

“Our soldiers’ duty there is coordination. They will develop the operation centre there. Our soldiers are gradually going right now,” he told CNN Turk broadcaster during an interview.

The Turkish parliament passed a bill allowing the government to send troops to Libya aimed at shoring up the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

The Tripoli government has come under sustained attack since military strongman general Khalifa Haftar launched his offensive in April.

Haftar is backed by Turkey’s regional rivals, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, while the UN-backed government has the support of Ankara and its ally Qatar.

Erdogan said Turkey’s objective was “not to fight”, but “to support the legitimate government and avoid a humanitarian tragedy”.

Turkey’s move comes after the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord made a formal request for military support.

Libya and Turkey signed security and maritime agreements in November last year, angering Mediterranean countries including Greece and Cyprus who also seek to exploit energy resources in the region.