The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy, along with the European Union’s top diplomat, have issued a joint call for a ceasefire in Libya, urging the warring sides in the North African country to resume peace talks.
“We want to unite our voices to those of the UN Secretary-General [Antonio] Guterres and his Acting Special Representative for Libya, Stephanie Turco Williams, in their call for a humanitarian truce in Libya,” they said in a statement on Saturday.
“We call on all the Libyan actors to get inspired by the spirit of the Holy Ramadan, engage in resuming talks for a genuine ceasefire,” added the statement, signed by the EU’s Josep Borrell, France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian, Italy’s Luigi di Maio and Heiko Maas of Germany.
Oil-rich Libya has been engulfed in chaos since 2011 when longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in a NATO-backed uprising.
It is now split between two rival administrations: The Tripoli-based internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) supported by Turkey, and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives allied to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) which enjoys the backing of, among others, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt.
In April 2019, Haftar launched a military campaign to wrest control of Tripoli but the offensive was largely stalled by forces loyal to the GNA.
The conflict escalated sharply this month after GNA-aligned forces launched a counteroffensive and expelled Haftar’s troops from several western cities.
The joint statement came a day after GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj sent a message to the United Nations Security Council saying his administration opposes a new EU military operation in the Mediterranean Sea which was established to monitor a UN arms embargo on Libya.
The leader of the UN-recognised government said Operation IRINI neglected to control the airspace and land borders through which arms, equipment, and ammunition are reaching Haftar’s forces.
The EU says the mission, which was approved by the bloc on March 31, aims to operate in the air and sea and with satellites to ensure all countries respect the ban on providing arms to the parties involved in the Libyan conflict.
The European forces will also watch for illegal oil exports, prevent human trafficking and contribute to the training of Libya’s coastguard and navy.