UN envoy Salame reports ‘progress’ in Libya rival talks

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The UN’s Libya envoy on Thursday reported “progress” in talks between military representatives of the country’s warring parties on coming up with a lasting ceasefire that could include a UN monitoring role.

“Progress has been made on many important issues,” Ghassan Salame told reporters in Geneva, adding that there were still “two or three points of divergence.”

“We are still working on refining our basic draft. I hope that we can have an agreement before we leave Geneva” following this week’s talks, Salame said.

“We’ve been talking since we arrived in Geneva about the necessary measures to turn the current truce into a lasting ceasefire agreement. It’s right to say that the situations and principles from both sides and this is normal in any talks, the situations are far away from each other and this was clear. But we have a sort of understanding about certain main points regarding this process,” Salame told Al Arabiya’s correspondent Noureddine Fridhi during the press conference.

“The process of turning the truce into a comprehensive ceasefire agreement nationwide in Libya. This necessitates commitments from both sides, from the Libyan National Army and from the army affiliated with the Government of National Accord,” he added.

Five senior officers appointed by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and five appointed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) headed by commander Khalifa Haftar are taking part in the military commission talks.

Salame said the two sides were not meeting together but engaged in “shuttle diplomacy” with separate meetings.

“If it is easier to have an agreement through shuttle diplomacy, we do not have a problem with that,” he said.

“I am not here for the picture of the two sides shaking hands,” he added.

Asked about monitoring, he added: “I can tell you that the joint military commission would be involved in the monitoring of the ceasefire under the auspices of the United Nations in Libya. That is acceptable to both sides.”

Salame also said that a separate commission dealing with economic affairs between the two sides would meet in Cairo on Sunday and he was hopeful that a political dialogue between them could begin in Geneva on February 26.

At a summit in the German capital Berlin last month, world leaders committed to ending all foreign interference in the oil-rich country and to uphold a weapons embargo to help end the long-running civil war.

But Salame said the embargo was being breached with weapons, ammunition and foreign fighters arriving to support both sides in the conflict.

Since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longstanding dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has been plunged into chaos. It is now divided between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj and rival authorities based in the country’s east.

Al-Sarraj is fighting a civil war against an alternative government based in the eastern city of Benghazi whose forces the Libyan National Army (LNA) are led by commander Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar launched an offensive to capture the Libyan capital of Tripoli in April vowing to end the rule of militias that include hardline groups linked to al-Qaeda and others. General Haftar has reportedly received support from international allies opposed to extremism and the Muslim Brotherhood.

(With AFP)

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