No breakthrough in Moscow talks for Libya ceasefire deal

Commander of eastern-based forces asks to be given until Tuesday to decide whether to sign the deal.

The talks in Moscow are aimed at formalising a ceasefire that started in Libya on Sunday [Pavel Golovkin/EPA]
The talks in Moscow are aimed at formalising a ceasefire that started in Libya on Sunday [Pavel Golovkin/EPA]

Hours-long negotiations in Moscow aimed at agreeing on an unconditional and open-ended ceasefire in Libya failed to achieve a breakthrough on Monday, but Russia expressed hope the North African country’s warring sides would soon conclude the deal to end the fighting.

The head of the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, signed the draft ceasefire agreement but his rival, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, asked for more time to make a decision.

“They have a positive view of the document and asked for extra time until the next morning (Tuesday) to decide,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said of Haftar and his delegation, adding that “good progress” was being made.

“I hope they will make a positive decision,” Lavrov said.

But on Tuesday, the eastern Libyan forces under Haftar’s command posted on their official Facebook page that they were “ready and determined” to achieve victory in their months-long campaign to seize the capital Tripoli from the GNA.

It provided no additional details, but another website linked to the forces said Haftar would not sign the proposal. 

Haftar’s forces have so far failed to capture the capital Tripoli, where the UN-recognised government is based [Russia foreign ministry via AFP] 

Berlin summit

The indirect talks in Moscow were aimed at formalising a fragile ceasefire that started in Libya on Sunday. Haftar’s forces have so far failed to capture Tripoli after nine months of fierce fighting that has killed more than 280 civilians and about 2,000 fighters, according to the UN.

Libya has been racked by turmoil since longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

The oil-rich country has since been split between two rival administrations based in the country’s east and west in a conflict that has drawn increasing involvement from foreign powers.

The defence ministers of Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the conflict, acted as mediators in the Moscow negotiations, but the rival delegations did not apparently come face-to-face.

“We have refused any meeting with Haftar,” Khaled al-Mechri, the head of High Council of State in Tripoli, was quoted as saying by Libya al-Ahrar television channel.

Turkey was working to ensure the truce became permanent, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Speaking alongside Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Ankara, Erdogan said he would attend a summit in Germany’s capital, Berlin, on Sunday to discuss developments in Libya, along with Conte and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I especially hope for the signing of a permanent ceasefire agreement sometime soon,” Erdogan told reporters.

Meanwhile, Libyan academic Mustafa Fetouri told Al Jazeera it was unclear if the temporary ceasefire would hold. 

“The stickiest point is the condition of having Haftar’s forces withdraw from southern Tripoli. I do not see Haftar accepting this condition because that simply would mean defeat for him,” Fetouri said.

“The other difficult point is the withdrawal of Haftar’s forces from Tarhuna, the main supply and control point for his forces. If he leaves this area, there will be infringement. So it is unlikely that he will leave that area.”

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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