‘New push’ for Libya peace

BERLIN: World leaders committed Sunday to ending all foreign meddling in Libya’s war and to uphold a weapons embargo at a Berlin summit, as part of a broader plan to end the spiralling conflict. The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France were among global chiefs signing up to the plan to stop interfering in the war — be it through weapons, troops or financing. But the talks failed to deliver “serious dialogue” between the warring parties — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — or to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce.

“We have a very disparate situation in Libya, where ensuring that a ceasefire is immediately respected is simply not easy to guarantee,” said summit host Chancellor Angela Merkel. “But I hope that through today’s conference, we have a chance the truce will hold further.” Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Most recently, Sarraj’s troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar’s forces.

Clashes have 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 12 January. Although Sarraj’s government is recognised by the UN, powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar — turning a domestic conflict into what some have described as a proxy war in which international powers jostle to secure their own interests.

International alarm grew in recent weeks after Turkey ordered in troops to shore up Sarraj’s government. For UN chief Antonio Guterres, the Libya conflict had spiralled to dangerous proportions in the last days. “Until now we have an escalation of the Libya conflict with some foreign interference. Now we are facing the risk of a true regional escalation. And that risk was averted in Berlin,’ he noted, adding that world powers have made ‘a strong commitment to stop” the perilous spiral.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to some positive takeaways from the Berlin pow-wow, but said the summit failed to launch necessary talks between Sarraj and Haftar. “It is clear that we have not yet succeeded in launching a serious and stable dialogue between them,” Lavrov told reporters after the Berlin conference, where Haftar and Sarraj did not meet face to face.