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AFP
January 14, 2020

Haftar delays Libya ceasefire signing: Lavrov

World

AFP
January 14, 2020

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday´s talks on a ceasefire deal between the warring sides in Libya reached “certain progress” but that strongman Khalifa Haftar asked for more time to study the document.

“There has been certain progress” after talks in Moscow lasting some seven hours, Lavrov said, adding that Haftar and Libya´s parliament speaker Aguila Saleh “have asked for a bit more time until morning to make a decision on signing” the ceasefire document.

Turkey and Italy urge permanent ceasefire in Libya: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called for a permanent ceasefire in Libya following a meeting in Ankara on Monday. “We are exerting efforts for the ceasefire to be permanent,” Erdogan said in a televised press conference a day after a fragile truce was established. “We have discussed the urgent necessity of putting an end to the escalation on the ground to guarantee a lasting ceasefire,” Conte said. “The ceasefire might result in a precarious measure if it isn´t included in a larger collective effort of the international community aimed at guaranteeing the unity, stability, sovereignty of Libya,” he added.

Erdogan and Conte were meeting as the heads of Libya´s warring parties came together in Russia, where they were expected to sign an agreement ahead of an international summit due later this month in Berlin. Erdogan said he hoped United Nations forces would help enforce the ceasefire. “Right now talks are continuing in Moscow,” he said. “I have information from my friends a while ago that the talks are continuing in the positive direction. “I think it will be a right move if the UN is tasked as an observer to strongly maintain the peace process.”

Libyans react to truce with relief and doubts: Residents of Libya´s capital have received news of a ceasefire with a mix of relief and scepticism after more than nine months of deadly fighting on the edges of Tripoli. “The truce is welcome, of course. But at what cost? So many lives lost for nothing,” said pharmacist Maysa Barakat. “I don´t believe that those who´ve lost a son, a father, a brother or a husband will just say ´okay, it´s over, let´s move on´,” she added. “Bloodshed among Libyans has stained our hope for a good and prosperous future for our children.

The heads of Libya´s warring factions were to meet in Moscow on Monday to sign a ceasefire deal, after eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive last April to seize the capital from a UN-recognised Government of National Accord. GNA head Fayez Sarraj, speaking after a ceasefire took effect at midnight Sunday, urged Libyans to “turn the page on the past”. Tripoli banker Karima al-Badri said the truce deal meant she could “breathe a sigh of relief”. “Although we know that this is just the beginning of a long process to come to some sort of a sustainable agreement, at least we have new hope,” she said. But the first day of the ceasefire was marred by several incidents of violence, with each side accusing the other of violations. Since the fall and killing of Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 revolt plunged Libya into a complex, violent power struggle, Haftar has spent years building up his power. His troops, renamed the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) from the previously self-styled Libyan National Army, now control much of the country´s east and south. But their offensive against pro-GNA armed groups in Tripoli last spring quickly became bogged down on the outskirts of the capital.

Fatima al-Taher, a lecturer at the University of Tripoli, voiced doubts that the ceasefire would hold. “My fear would be retaliation from both sides. The problem is that the East has fought so hard for so long that, unless Haftar (wins a) leading position where he would have some sort of power, he will not stop,” she said. Haftar, whose rivals accuse him of wanting to establish a military dictatorship, says his aim is to oust “terrorist groups” from the capital. The battle for Tripoli has killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters as well as displacing tens of thousands, according to the UN.

Mahmoud al-Kahili, who fled his home with his wife and two-year-old son as Haftar´s forces approached and has been staying with his brother in the capital´s eastern district of Tajoura, remains pessimistic. He did not hide his pessimism about returning to live there any time soon, but hoped the pause in fighting would allow him to go home and gather his belongings. “I don´t trust that the ceasefire will last long,” he said. “Both sides have accepted, but neither is convinced that they can reach a solution through dialogue.