Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) efforts to remove the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, on Friday paid a visit to Greece just days after walking out on ceasefire talks in Moscow.
Haftar also sent a letter to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, according to Kremlin, thanking him for his efforts to end the conflict in the war-torn North African country, days ahead of a ceasefire summit in Berlin.
On Monday Haftar was in Moscow for talks that were mediated by Turkey and Russia aimed at getting a ceasefire agreement with his rival Fayez al-Sarraj, who controls the Tripoli-based GNA.
However, the Russian-backed Haftar left Moscow on Tuesday, refusing to agree to an open-ended ceasefire ending a months-long military assault on the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
“Vladimir Putin, my dear friend! I express my personal gratitude and appreciation for the efforts of the Russian Federation to bring about peace and stability in Libya,” Haftar said in his letter of thanks.
Haftar also said in the letter that he was ready to revisit Russia to continue the dialogue.
On the other side of the conflict, Haftar’s walkout from Moscow was interpreted by GNA’s al-Sarraj as “an attempt to undermine the Berlin conference before it starts.”
The United Nations (UN)-held Berlin summit aims to end foreign interference and division over Libya.
“External interference will deepen the ongoing conflict and further complicate efforts to reach a clear international commitment to a peaceful resolution of the underlying crisis,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.
The conference will aim to agree to six points, including a permanent ceasefire, implementation of a much-violated UN arms embargo, and a return to political efforts for peace.
But the meeting hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not try to broker power-sharing between the eastern-based LNA and the internationally-recognized GNA, Reuters said citing diplomats briefed on preparations.
According to Reuters, a truce is aimed, with technical committees monitoring the steps to be taken.
The other U.N.-initiated conference had been postponed several times so far due to the continuing fierce fight over the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Initiated by Russia and Turkey, a conditional ceasefire that came into effect over the weekend has, for the most part, been holding. However, the warring sides are trading blame over reported breaches.
On Thursday, Haftar also secretly flew to Greece, a country which has not been invited to the summit and met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday.
The Greek PM urged Haftar to adopt a “constructive stance” during the upcoming talks.
Following the meeting, the LNA leader said an agreement on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean signed between Turkey and his rival GNA violated international law and, therefore, invalid.
In November last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the GNA leader al-Sarraj signed two controversial agreements on maritime borders and on security cooperation, both of which were subsequently ratified by the two countries’ parliaments.
Turkey and Libya plan to carry out joint natural gas drilling operations in the disputed waters based on the maritime border deal.
Haftar said in Athens that al-Sarraj did not have the legitimacy to sign such a memorandum on the two countries’ EEZ, stretching from Turkey’s southern Mediterranean shore to Libya’s northeast coast.
Based on the other deal, Turkey has deployed troops to support the GNA. Ankara has also been accused of sending its ally Syrian rebel fighters to Libya.