Libya summit opens in Berlin, seeking end to foreign meddling

BERLIN: World leaders made a fresh push for peace in Libya at a summit in Berlin on Sunday, in a desperate bid to stop the conflict-wracked nation from turning into a “second Syria”.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France joined other global chiefs at the talks hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel and held under the auspices of the United Nations.
The summit’s main goal is to get foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop interfering in the war — be it through weapons, troops or financing.
Leaders of both warring factions — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al Sarraj — were also in Berlin for the first such gathering since 2018.
But pro-Haftar forces upped the ante ahead of the talks by blocking oil exports at Libya’s key ports, crippling the country’s main income source in protest at Turkey’s decision to send troops to shore up Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
Ahead of the talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Haftar, saying he needed to drop his “hostile attitude” if Libya is to have any chance at winning peace.
The flaring oil crisis underlined the devastating impact of foreign influence in the conflict, in which Sarraj’s GNA is backed by Turkey and Qatar while Haftar has the support of Russia, Egypt and the UAE.
“Libya needs all foreign interference to stop,” the United Nations’ special envoy Ghassan Salame said.
The UN hopes all sides will sign up to a plan to refrain from interference, and commit to a truce that leads to a lasting end to hostilities, according to a draft of a final communique.
That document also urges all parties to re-commit to a much-violated UN arms embargo and raises the prospect of intra-Libyan political talks in Geneva at the end of the month.
If all goes to plan, the Berlin participants will hold an evening press conference.
But the summit has already ruffled feathers with several countries in the region fuming at being left out, including Greece, Morocco and Tunisia.
Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 Nato-backed uprising killed Muammar Gaddafi. Most recently, Sarraj’s troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar’s forces.
Clashes killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displaced tens of thousands, until a fragile ceasefire backed by both Ankara and Moscow was put in place on January 12.
At follow-up talks in Moscow, Sarraj agreed to a permanent truce but Haftar walked away without signing the deal. — AFP

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