Libya’s Haftar committed to ceasefire, Germany says

Army general waging offensive to capture Tripoli left talks in Moscow this week without signing deal

German foreign minister Heiko Maas  meets Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. Photograph:  German foreign ministry handout via Reuters

German foreign minister Heiko Maas meets Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. Photograph: German foreign ministry handout via Reuters

 

A Libyan military commander waging an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli is committed to a ceasefire, Germany said on Thursday, in an apparent advance for efforts to end a near-decade of turmoil in the North African country.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas’s office also said commander Khalifa Haftar is also willing to attend a conference in Berlin on Sunday aimed at addressing the conflict, after Mr Maas visited the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Gen Haftar’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Mr Maas’s comment follows failed efforts by Russia and Turkey to persuade Gen Haftar on a visit to Moscow this week to agree to a lasting ceasefire and halt the offensive on the Libyan capital. Gen Haftar left Moscow without signing the proposal.

The nine-month-old war over Tripoli is just the latest bout of chaos in Libya, an Opec oil exporter that has become a hub for human traffickers to ship migrants by boats to Italy, while Islamist militants have exploited the widespread disorder.

Germany on Sunday hosts a summit bringing together foreign powers and the Libyan rival camps backed by them to try end the war over Tripoli and resume talks on a power-sharing deal.

Mr Maas flew to Geb Haftar’s base in eastern Libya on Thursday to discuss the Berlin summit.

“Gen Haftar has signalled his readiness to contribute to the success of the Libya Conference in Berlin and is willing to participate. He has repeated his commitment to observe the existing ceasefire,” a German foreign ministry tweet quoted Mr Maas as saying after meetings in Benghazi.

German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the development and said one aim of the Berlin conference would to be to get back to a weapons embargo.

“At the Libya conference we must above all see that the weapons embargo is adhered to again, which is basically agreed by the UN but unfortunately not honoured,” she told reporters.

Outside powers

Libya has been fractured and deeply unstable, with outside powers providing support to rival armed factions, since veteran dictator Muammar Gadafy was toppled in a 2011 uprising.

Turkey backs the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya led by Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj, while Gen Haftar – whose forces control much of Libya’s east and south – has received support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Russian mercenaries.

Turkey is beginning to send troops into Libya in support of Mr Serraj’s government, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

“In order for the legitimate government in Libya to remain standing and for stability to be established, we are now sending our soldiers to this country,” Mr Erdogan told an event in Ankara. He warned on Tuesday that Turkey would not refrain from “teaching a lesson” to Gen Haftar’s forces if their attacks on the GNA continued.

The Moscow talks were the latest attempt to stabilise Libya, which has the largest proven reserves of oil in Africa.

Turkey and Libya signed two deals in November, one on military co-operation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean. Mr Erdogan said Turkey would quickly start granting licences for exploration and drilling in the region.

“In the areas that remain between Turkey and Libya, it is now legally impossible for there to be exploration and drilling activities or a pipeline without the approval of both sides,” he said. – Reuters