Libyan rivals in Russia for ceasefire talks

Senior representatives of Libya’s two warring parties in Libya were in Moscow on Monday for talks on an unconditional and open-ended ceasefire.

The talks follow last week’s proposal by Russia and Turkey in which they had called for it to start on Sunday.

Currently, both sides, Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and Russia-backed Libyan National Army (LNA), have agreed conditionally to the truce, which was meant to start at 0001 am on Sunday (Saturday 2201 GMT).

Last Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul, after which they called for a ceasefire between Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s GNA and military commander Khalifa Haftar’s LNA.

In the first round of the Moscow talks, al-Sarraj signed a draft ceasefire agreement, while Haftar asked for extra time until Tuesday morning to consider it, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“They [Haftar’s side] have a positive view of the document. I hope they will make a positive decision. Russian and Turkish representatives will continue to offer their assistance,” Lavrov said.

It is not clear whether Libya’s two rival leaders would meet face to face if the ceasefire was agreed upon.

Before heading to Moscow on Monday, al-Sarraj said in a televised interview that he had accepted the ceasefire deal to prevent more bloodshed in the country.

“I call on all Libyans to turn the page on the past, reject discord, and to close ranks to move towards stability and peace,” al-Sarraj told Al Ahrar TV.

The GNA’s al-Sarraj also vowed that his forces were ready “to resume military operations in case of any break to the ceasefire.”

The LNA side accused the GNA militias of violating the truce “on more than one battlefront, with all types of weapons” after the due time started for the conditional ceasefire on Sunday.

The GNA side said in response that the violations were by “the aggressor militias” and stressed its commitment to the ceasefire.

Turkey’s defense ministry reiterated the GNA argument, saying the violations were exceptional incidents, and both sides were trying to abide by the ceasefire.

A UN-led summit will be held in Berlin on Sunday, aiming at plotting a path to peace in Libya.

The Turkish leader’s presence is seen as essential to the success of any conference on Libya, since Ankara’s decision to deploy military advisers and possibly troops there has made it a significant player in the country’s long-running civil war.

On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Libya’s warring parties would need to play a major role if a solution was to be found.

Merkel said the aim was to give Libya the chance to become a sovereign and peaceful country.

Similarly, the European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen cautioned the Russian-Turkish intervention in the Libyan conflict.

“A ceasefire, yes, it is a first step in the right direction, but what you need is a process for consolidation, for reconstruction and a government of unity. There is a long way to go. This has to be a UN-led process. This is of utmost importance,” the EC President said.

Backing the rival parties, Russia and Turkey have emerged as key players in Libya.

Moscow backs the LNA through the use of mercenaries, while Turkey supports the UN-backed GNA government with official military advisors, defense equipment, and troops.

Turkey’s stated aim in the intervention is to prevent the North African country from turning into an authoritarian, anti-Islamist state.

However, critics of the Erdogan regime believe that it aims to secure Mediterranean gas supplies and turn Libya into a client Ottoman state.

Erdogan and al-Sarraj signed a controversial agreement that defines the two countries’ maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean, an act that complicates a dispute over offshore oil and gas exploration off Cyprus.

Oil-rich Libya has been wracked by bloody turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising killed long-time strongman Muammar Gaddafi, drawing increasing involvement from foreign powers.

Haftar rejects ceasefire call by Russia and Turkey, vows to continue fighting

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