Merkel says Berlin will host Libya peace talks

Updated January 12, 2020

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Moscow: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the talks in the Kremlin on Saturday.—Reuters
Moscow: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the talks in the Kremlin on Saturday.—Reuters

MOSCOW: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Libyan peace talks will be held in Berlin, as Turkey and Russia appealed to Libya’s warring factions to enter a ceasefire.

During a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Saturday, Merkel said: “We hope that the joint efforts by Russia and Turkey will lead to success, and we will soon send out invitations for a conference in Berlin.”

Merkel stressed that the United Nations would lead talks if a meeting were to take place in Berlin, and that Libya’s warring parties would need to play a major role to help find a solution.

The aim was to give Libya the chance to become a sovereign and peaceful country, Merkel said.

Putin expressed support for the process, saying it was a ‘timely’ idea and necessary to bring the conflict in Libya to an end.

Earlier this week Turkey and Russia urged Libya’s warring parties to declare a ceasefire on Sunday.

Turkey backs Fayez al-Serraj’s Tripoli-based, internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and has said it will send military advisers and possibly troops to reinforce its support, while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside General Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

In response to being asked whether he was aware of the presence of Russian mercenaries in Libya Putin said: “If there are Russian citizens there, then they are not representing the interests of the Russian state and they are not receiving money from the Russian state.”

Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin for talks set to focus on flashpoints in the Middle East.

Merkel and Putin shook hands at the start of the meeting which the German leader said would cover topics including turmoil in Libya and the Syria conflict as well as Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists.

“There is a lot to discuss,” said Merkel, adding that “talking with one another is always better than talking about one another.” Putin thanked the chancellor for visiting and said they would focus on “the hottest” topics. The leaders were set to give a press conference afterwards.

Germany and Russia said ahead of the talks that they would cover the confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the US killing of a top Iranian general and turmoil in Libya.

The visit by Merkel was her first to Russia since May 2018 when the leaders met at Putin’s Black Sea residence.

Putin visited Syria and Turkey this week and is keen to stress his role as a regional powerbroker.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who accompanied Merkel, said a “key reason” for the meeting was the escalating crisis in Libya, where Berlin is acting as a mediator in a conflict he has warned could become a “second Syria”.

“We are involving Europe and those players who are influential there, for that we need Russia,” Maas told Germany’s NTV television. “For us, it’s not too far to fly to Moscow to discuss that with Putin.” Merkel is to invite Putin to a Berlin conference on Libya later this month, diplomatic sources said.

Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in Libya on Wednesday, although they are seen as supporting opposing sides in the conflict.

While Turkey has sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, Moscow is accused of backing mercenaries supporting strongman Khalifa Haftar in his fight against the government. Haftar said he would fight on despite the call for a ceasefire.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2020