World powers in Berlin to seek elusive Libya peace

2020-01-19 12:17
A fighter loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) exits a vehicle in an area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP).

A fighter loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) exits a vehicle in an area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP).

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World leaders will 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 disintegrating into a "second Syria".

The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France are due for talks from around 14:00 (13:00 GMT) held under the auspices of the United Nations, which wants to get foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop interfering in the war, through the provision of weapons, troops or financing.

READ | Libya oil exports blocked, raising stakes for Berlin peace summit

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

But hours ahead of the meet, pro-Haftar forces upped the ante by blocking oil exports at the war-ravaged country's key ports, crippling the main source of income in a protest against 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 what is described by the UN as foreign interference, which the United Nations' special envoy Ghassan Salame said had to stop.

"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," he told AFP on the eve of the meeting.

UN arms embargo

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 political, inter-Libyan talks in Geneva at the end of the month.

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

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

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.

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 as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered troops to Libya early January to bolster Sarraj.

Read more on:    un  |  libya  |  north africa
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