Libya’s Haftar left Moscow without signing ceasefire deal: Russia

Russian and Turkish sponsored cease-fire talks to end Libya’s civil war collapses

Russian and Turkish sponsored cease-fire talks to end Libya’s civil war appeared to collapse after General Khalifa Haftar left Moscow without signing the agreement.

Head of the Government of National Accord , Fayez Al Sarraj, had signed the deal after a day of negotiations in Moscow brokered by Russia and Turkey, which seized the initiative from the west in attempting to end nine months of fighting around the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Haftar asked for a delay until Tuesday to consider signing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference on Monday. Hours later, however, Haftar and his entourage left Moscow without agreeing the deal.

Turkey and Russia, which back rival forces, had pushed the fighting parties to accept the cease-fire. The truce began shakily over the weekend and now threatens to fall apart entirely.

“There will be no signing on any document at the expense of the heroic sacrifices and aspirations of the Libyans to salvation,” Haftar’s Libyan National Army said on Twitter early Tuesday, confirming the departure of the strongman and his accompanying delegation from Moscow.

“We have worked with our Russian partners all day long for the factions in Libya to sign a cease-fire letter and we drafted a text,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said alongside Lavrov on Monday. “We have taken into account suggestions, especially from the Haftar side, to reach a mutual understanding.”

Haftar’s departure casts doubt over hopes for an end to the battle over Tripoli.

That would have spared Libya further fighting after years of upheaval that has left thousands dead and allowed Islamist extremists to dig in. It would also have removed a key uncertainty for the oil market. Crude production in Libya, home to Africa’s largest proven reserves, has fluctuated as the warring sides fought over some of the country’s largest fields.

Libya has been enduring its worst violence since the 2011 NATO-backed ouster of Muammar Qaddafi, which ushered in years of instability that divided the country between rival administrations and turned it into a hub for migrants destined for Europe.

Calls for ‘credible’ truce’

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.

A fragile ceasefire went into effect from midnight Sunday, but Erdogan on Monday reiterated the “urgent necessity” for a permanent agreement after meeting with Italy’s prime minister.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Putin on Saturday and he supported her drive to hold a peace conference sponsored by the United Nations. Berlin said Monday the summit was planned for later this month.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday called for a “credible, lasting and verifiable” truce.

Diplomatic sources said discussions were also under way at the United Nations about establishing an observation mission in Libya to monitor the ceasefire, similar to an existing initiative in Yemen.

“For the ceasefire in Libya to hold, there should be an impartial monitoring and implementation mechanism as well as confidence-building measures,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told AFP.

The UN is already “recording and verifying reported ceasefire violations” through its political mission in Libya, which employs around 230 people, he added.

‘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”.

Since the start of fighting in Tripoli, more than 280 civilians and about 2,000 fighters have been killed and 146,000 Libyans have been displaced, according to the UN.

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 also 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.

Russia supports Haftar as the stronger militarily and backed by its ally Egypt, said Russian defence analyst Alexei Malashenko.

“Moscow wants to preserve its presence in Libya through Haftar, including its oil interests,” he said.

Russia could rekindle trade in arms and wheat and relaunch a stalled railway construction project.

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 what Berlin calls a “second Syria”.

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”.

Source ; News Agencies

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