Germany’s foreign minister headed to Libya on Thursday to persuade Libyan General Khalifa Haftar to join an international conference on the conflict, as the UN urged support for the peace initiative.
Heiko Maas said the Berlin conference – scheduled for Sunday – was “the best chance in a long time” for peace talks in Libya, which has been in chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed former Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi.
Maas was due to meet Haftar in the eastern city of Benghazi – one of the general’s strongholds – days after meeting his rival Fayez al-Sarraj, who serves as head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
Sarraj’s government has been under attack since April from forces loyal to Haftar, with clashes killing more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displacing tens of thousands more.
“I hope that the parties will use this chance to take Libya’s future back into Libyan hands,” Maas said in Berlin before boarding his flight.
“For that, we need readiness for a real ceasefire and the participation of both warring parties in the dialogue format suggested by the United Nations.”
The leaders of the warring groups were in Moscow early this week at talks aimed at finalizing a ceasefire orchestrated by Russia and Turkey.
But Haftar walked away without signing the permanent truce, sparking fears about the shaky ceasefire.
In his report to the UN Security Council late on Wednesday, UN chief Antonio Guterres urged all warring parties to stop fighting and “engage constructively towards that end, including within the Berlin process”.
He also warned against “external interference”, which he said would “deepen the ongoing conflict and further complicate efforts to reach a clear international commitment to a peaceful resolution of the underlying crisis”.
The Berlin conference will aim to agree six points including a permanent ceasefire, implementation of the arms embargo and a return to the political process for peace, he added.
As well as killing hundreds of people, the fighting in Libya has also spurred a growing exodus of migrants, though nearly 1,000 intercepted at sea have been forced to return this year, according to the UN.