Wed, 26 Feb 2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a summit in Berlin on the conflict in Libya has made progress toward a fully fledged cease-fire, and that he hopes the development will lead to the reopening of Libyan oil facilities that have been blocked by warring tribesmen.

Pompeo made the remarks after Germany brought together the leaders of 11 countries on January 19 for talks aimed at convincing outside powers to stop fueling Libya's civil war with troops, weapons, or financial support.

The Berlin summit also sought to secure a cease-fire between forces of Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and Libya's Russian-backed rebel leader, General Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) headquarters are in the city of Tobruk.

Ultimately, the summit was aimed at relaunching a political process and prevent what some fear could become another Syria-like flood of refugees from Libya.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters at the conclusion of the summit that the backers of the rival Libyan sides had agreed a truce reached in Tripoli over the past week should be turned into a permanent cease-fire to allow a political process to take place.

A special committee made up of five military men from each side will monitor the truce, Merkel said, adding that foreign powers active in Libya have committed themselves to uphold an existing UN arms embargo and to stop shipping weapons there.​

Those attending the Berlin gathering included Pompeo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Also in attendance were UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres along with senior representatives of the European Union, the African Union, and the Arab League.

'Downward Spiral'

Libya's UN-recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj was also in Berlin for the January 19 gathering along with his main rival, General Haftar.

Merkel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met separately with both Sarraj and Haftar at the chancellery in Berlin before the summit began.

But neither Sarraj nor Haftar attended the summit's opening group photo and the two did not meet in Berlin, Merkel said.

'We know that we have not solved all of Libya's problems today but we were aiming for fresh momentum,' she said at the end of the gathering.

Just hours before the meeting began, Sarraj raised doubts about Haftar's agenda, saying that 'long experience makes us doubt the intentions, seriousness, and commitment of the other side, whom everyone know seeks powers at any price.'

Guterres said at the start of the conference that world leaders 'are here for an urgent and pressing reason: to stop Libya's downward spiral.'

Macron told the gathering on January 19 that he was extremely concerned about the recent arrival in Tripoli of pro-Turkish Syrian fighters.

The French president said the deployment in Libya of fighters from Syria and other foreign forces must stop immediately.

Turkey and Russia have both been criticized by UN and Western officials who say their efforts to arm their allies have intensified violence.

Differences were apparent on January 19 with Erdogan declaring that the world has failed to respond adequately to Haftar's 'reckless attacks' on Sarraj's UN-recognized government.

'Hopes that flourish again with the cease-fire and the Berlin summit should not be sacrificed to the ambitions of the merchants of blood and chaos,' said Erdogan, who supports Sarraj's government and has been critical of Russia's support for Haftar.

Shaky Cease-Fire

Erdogan met Putin before the summit began, with Putin saying 'we will sincerely strive for the conflict to be resolved.'

Meanwhile, the U.S. Secretary of State said during a meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on January 19 that Washington was also concerned about the presence of foreign fighters in Libya.

Erdogan announced earlier in January that he had dispatched Turkish military elements to Libya to ensure stability for the GNA.

Pompeo also held talks on the sidelines of the Berlin summit with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, another country involved in the Libyan conflict.

A draft communique circulating early on January 19 urged rival sides to refrain from hostilities against oil infrastructure, agencies reported as senior officials from countries backing the warring parties converged in the German capital.

The draft communique reportedly described Tripoli-based state oil company NOC as the only legitimate entity that can sell Libyan oil.

Tribesmen loyal to Haftar have reportedly blocked off all oil ports in eastern Libya.

A cease-fire between the rival Libyan forces had been scheduled to enter into force on January 12, but has been shaky at best.

Last week, Haftar left talks in Moscow without signing a cease-fire deal proposed by Moscow and Ankara.

Libya has been plagued with violence and unrest since a NATO-backed campaign ousted longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

UN experts and diplomats say Russian military contractors in recent months have deployed alongside Haftar's LNA, which has also received air support from the U.A.E. and backing from Jordan and Egypt.

Moscow denies direct military involvement.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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