Foreign powers to push Libyan rivals for truce in Berlin

FILE PHOTO: People are seen at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, Libya January 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Germany and the United Nations will push rival Libyan camps and their foreign backers fighting over the capital to agree on Sunday to a truce and monitoring mechanism as first steps towards peace, diplomats and a draft communique said.

But the meeting in Berlin at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s headquarters will not try to broker power-sharing between the eastern-based forces and the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli, said diplomats briefed on preparations.

The summit will put pressure on Khalifa Haftar and his eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) to halt a nine-month offensive against Fayez al-Serraj’s government in the coastal capital after a week-long lull in fighting.

About 140,000 people have been forced out of their homes.

“I hope the war ends and we have our country back to live in peace,” said Aisha Ali Saleh, a mother-of-eight in an apartment on an abandoned building site with no power or running water.

Haftar and Serraj are both due in Berlin – along with leaders of Russia, Turkey, Egypt and other Western and Arab powers – in the latest bid to stabilise the OPEC member nation in turmoil since the 2011 fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Members of the transatlantic alliance NATO and Arab countries were instrumental in removing Gaddafi then, and foreign powers have again been the drivers of the aftermath, supplying drones, guns and ammunition to the factions. 

Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Jordan, Sudanese and Chadian fighters, and most recently Russian mercenaries. France has also given some support.

On the other side, Turkey has rushed to Serraj’s rescue by sending troops to balance out recent gains by Russian snipers. Hundreds of pro-Turkey fighters from Syria’s war have also been deployed, diplomats say.

“Berlin is an opportunity to restart the political process and build on the pause in fighting,” said a Western diplomat.

A six-page draft communique seen by Reuters calls for “credible, verifiable, sequenced and reciprocal steps” starting with a truce to be monitored by technical committees. 

That could involve beefing up the existing U.N. mission in Libya or deploying troops from Russia, Turkey or other states, the diplomats said. The draft vaguely mentioned long-delayed plans for elections and a national government, without any timeline, just calling for U.N.-led follow-up meetings.