World powers likely to end meddling in Libya

January 20, 2020

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BERLIN: World leaders were poised to commit to ending all foreign meddling in Libya’s war at a Berlin summit on Sunday, but calls were growing for an international force to ensure that pledges are put into action.

The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France were among global chiefs at the talks held under the auspices of the United Nations, which wants 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 on the eve 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 United Arab Emirates.

Voicing his “acute concerns over the arrival of Syrian and foreign fighters in the city of Tripoli”, France’s President Emmanuel Macron said as the Berlin summit opened that “that must end”.

If all goes to plan, 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 communiqué.

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.

But with warnings multiplying that pledges are often little respected in reality, calls have grown for international monitors to police the promises.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2020