Libya and world leaders agree to uphold ceasefire, respect arms embargo


International powers with conflicting interests in Libya’s civil war have called for a ceasefire and agreed to respect a much-violated arms embargo in an effort to end the country’s long-running conflict.

The agreement on Sunday, January 19, came after about four hours of talks in Berlin where German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted leaders of 11 countries, with Libya’s two main rival leaders also in the German capital but not at the main conference table.

Merkel told reporters that powers had agreed that a tentative truce in Tripoli over the past week should be turned into a permanent ceasefire to allow a political process to take place. A special committee made up of five military officials from each side will monitor the truce, she said.

Organizers knew that “we had to succeed in getting all the parties that connected in any way with the Libya conflict to speak with one voice … because then the parties inside Libya will also understand that there is only a non-military way to a solution,” Merkel said. “We achieved this result here.”

Libya has sunk further into chaos since the 2011 ouster and killing of its longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. It is now divided into rival administrations, each backed by different nations: The U.N.-recognized government based in Tripoli in the west, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, and one based in the country’s east, supported by Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

The two rival leaders did not meet in Berlin, Merkel said, highlighting the gulf between the two.

“We know that we have not solved all of Libya’s problems today but we were aiming for fresh momentum,” said Merkel.

Haftar’s forces have been on the offensive since April, laying siege to Tripoli in an effort to capture the capital. They are backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, while the Tripoli government has relied upon Turkey for troops and weapons, turning the conflict into a proxy war.

More than 150,000 people have been displaced by the fighting for the capital.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that the war risked descending into a conflict like Syria, which has embroiled regional and world powers, killed at least 560,000 people and displaced more than 12 million.

“If the developments in Libya are left to continue, then Libya will become the next Syria and we do not want to let that happen,” he said.

A truce brokered earlier this month by Russia and Turkey marked the first break in fighting in months, but there have been repeated violations. Although there has been a lull in air strikes and less fighting over the past 10 days, heavy exchanges of artillery fire could be heard from some front lines south of Tripoli late on Sunday, residents said.

Among those who attended Sunday were Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The participants agreed that “we want to respect the arms embargo, and that the arms embargo will be more strongly controlled than was the case in the past,” Merkel said. She added that the results of the conference should be endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

The summit’s final statement said the participants “call on all actors to refrain from any activities exacerbating the conflict or inconsistent with the (U.N.) arms embargo or the ceasefire, including the financing of military capabilities or the recruitment of mercenaries.” (Source: Mainichi Japan)