Libyan government, Haftar forces cloud hopes of saving UN ceasefire talks

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TRIPOLI / BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – The internationally renowned Libyan leader on Wednesday dashed hopes of a quick revival of UN ceasefire negotiations after his camp’s withdrawal, saying talks about their resumption had were overwhelmed by events as Eastern forces continued to bombard the capital.

A damaged container is seen at the port of Tripoli after an attack in Libya on February 19, 2020. REUTERS / Ismail Zitouny

The Libyan National Army (LNA) based in eastern Khalifa Haftar, which bombed the port of the capital held by the recognized government on Tuesday, also ruled out a truce with “terrorists” and “Turkish invaders”, suggesting a delay of almost a year. the battle will continue.

The port is a major gateway for imports of wheat, fuel and food, but also a point of arrival for Turkish ships that send weapons, drones, trucks and soldiers to help the prime minister Fayez al-Serraj to push back the LNA, which is supported by the United States. Mercenaries from the Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Russia.

The conflict has reduced oil exports by a million barrels a day and could deepen a security vacuum that would be exploited by Islamist militants and human traffickers sending migrants by boat to Europe.

The Tripoli government walked out of ceasefire talks late Tuesday, and a provocative Serraj, visiting the bombed port on Wednesday, rebuffed calls to return to the negotiating table immediately.

“First there has to be a strong signal from all international actors trying to talk to us,” he told reporters, saying this also applied to parallel talks focused on political and economic issues.

He suggested that the fighting was likely to continue: “We have an even stronger signal than that, which is defending our people. “

The photographs showed containers in the port with large black holes in them. The National Oil Corporation and the United Nations said shells nearly hit a highly explosive tanker.

Almost nine years after rebel fighters backed by NATO airstrikes overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya still lacks a central authority. The streets are controlled by armed factions, with rival governments based in Tripoli and in the east.

“We really want a ceasefire and serious negotiations to end the war for the sake of all Libyans,” Jalal al-Bosairi, a 45-year-old businessman, said in a Tripoli cafe. .

Since the ANL marched on Tripoli almost a year ago, fighting has displaced 150,000 people.

DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS FOR THE TRÈVE

A second round of talks involving military officers from both sides began in Geneva on Tuesday following a summit in Germany a month ago involving countries with major stakes in the conflict.

The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salamé, was trying to convince the Tripoli delegation to stay in Geneva and resume indirect talks earlier on Wednesday, the United Nations confirmed.

“The delegations are still there (in Geneva) and Dr Salame has a meeting today with the head of the GNA delegation,” said Jean El Alam, spokesperson for the United Nations mission in Libya, referring to the government of national accord based in Tripoli.

The Geneva meetings have so far been held in different rooms. Another round of political talks is scheduled for next week in Geneva.

ANL spokesman Ahmed Mismari said his forces had decided to send a delegation to Geneva. But he added: “There will be no peace, talks or ceasefire with the terrorists and Turkish invaders. “

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Haftar and they agreed that a political settlement is the only option for Libya, the RIA news agency said on Wednesday.

The latest attack on Tripoli is part of an emerging pattern akin to Haftar’s apparent power play.

His forces closed Libya’s major oil ports last month as European and Arab powers and the United States met with supporters in Berlin to try to end the fighting in Tripoli.

The ANL’s supply routes are less exposed than those of the GNA, as the airports and seaports in the east are beyond the reach of Turkish combat drones used by the government in Tripoli.

In contrast, the LNA uses drones supplied by the United Arab Emirates which cover the entire country, although there have been no airstrikes for weeks as Turkey has installed sophisticated defenses.

Reporting by Emma Farge, Ahmed Elumami, Alaa Swilam, Ulf Laessing, Omar Fahmy, Ayman Salhi and Ayman al-Warfalli; Written by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Lisa Shumaker


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