Libya peace talks in Moscow fall short of ceasefire deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu hold a joint press conference following the talks on a ceasefire deal between the warring sides in Libya, in Moscow on January 13, 2020. (AFP)

Libya’s warring leaders made some progress at indirect peace talks in Moscow on Monday but failed to agree on an open-ended ceasefire to end a nine-month war over the capital Tripoli.

In talks that lasted about eight hours, mediators Russia and Turkey urged the rivals to sign a binding truce and pave the way for a settlement that would stabilize the North African country mired in chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Fayez al-Serraj, who heads the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has struggled to fend off an offensive by the eastern based Libya National Army (LNA), signed the ceasefire agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“Today we can report that some progress was made,” Lavrov told reporters at the elegant 19th century Moscow mansion where the talks were held.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said LNA commander Khalifa Haftar had asked for until Tuesday morning to make up his mind on the ceasefire.

Sources told Al Arabiya that General Haftar refuses any interference, mediation or participation from Turkey in supervising the ceasefire in the country. Haftar also pointed out that the Russians ignored a number of the LNA's demands.

The sources added that the ceasefire agreement did not state that Turkish forces must withdraw from Libya, and that Haftar rejects the signing the ceasefire agreement unless the deal between Turkey and the GNA is annulled. Haftar stipulated that the GNA should not sign any agreements without consulting the LNA, according to the Al Arabiya source.

In a sign the LNA might continue its offensive, it said on an official website that it was “ready and determined” to achieve victory.

It gave no details, but another website close to the force said Haftar will not sign the ceasefire proposal. Pro-LNA channels said Haftar had already left Moscow.

Pro-LNA social media posts have called to stage a rally to support Haftar on Tuesday in the main eastern city of Benghazi.

The Russo-Turkish push, which involved laborious indirect contacts between the two Libyan delegations, is the latest attempt to end chaos in the the oil-producing country.

Speaking alongside Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Ankara, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his country was working to ensure a ceasefire in Libya becomes permanent.

He said he hoped the Moscow talks would form the basis of discussions at a summit in Berlin on Sunday, which he said he would attend with Conte and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she planned to host such a summit after holding talks with Putin.

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