Berlin Summit Seeks To End Libyan Fighting, Prevent ‘New Syria’ Crisis
Germany has brought together the leaders of 11 countries for talks in Berlin on January 19 aimed at convincing outside powers to stop fueling Libya’s civil war with troops, weapons, or financial support.
The Berlin summit also seeks to secure a cease-fire between forces of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and Libya’s Russian-backed rebel leader, General Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) headquarters are in the city of Tobruk.
Ultimately, the summit seeks to relaunch a political process and prevent what some fear could become another Syria-like flood of refugees.
Those attending the Berlin gathering include 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.
Also attending is UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and senior representatives of the European Union, the African Union, and the Arab league.
Organizers of the Berlin talks have expressed hopes that the parties will emerge with a firmer cease-fire and commitments to avoid stoking conflict in the oil-rich North African state of around 7 million people.
Libya’s UN-recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj was also in Berlin for the January 19 gathering along with his main rival, General Haftar.
Merkel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met with both Sarraj and Haftar at the chancellery in Berlin before the summit began.
But neither Sarraj nor Haftar attended the summit’s opening group photo and it was not immediately clear what meetings the rival Libyan leaders planned to attend.
Just hours before the meeting began, Sarraj raised doubts about Haftar’s agenda, saying that "long experience makes us doubt the intentions, seriousness, and commitment of the other side, whom everyone know seeks powers at any price."
Guterres said at the start of the conference that world leaders "are here for an urgent and pressing reason: to stop Libya’s downward spiral."
Macron told the gathering on January 19 that he was extremely concerned about the recent arrival in Tripoli of pro-Turkish Syrian fighters.
The French president said the deployment in Libya of fighters from Syria and other foreign forces must stop immediately.
Turkey and Russia have both been criticized by UN and Western officials who say their efforts to arm their allies have intensified violence.
Differences were apparent on January 19 with Erdogan declaring that the world has failed to respond adequately to Haftar’s "reckless attacks" on Sarraj’s UN-recognized government.
"Hopes that flourish again with the cease-fire and the Berlin summit should not be sacrificed to the ambitions of the merchants of blood and chaos," said Erdogan, who supports Sarraj’s government and has been critical of Russia’s support for Haftar.
Erdogan met Putin before the summit began, with Putin saying "we will sincerely strive for the conflict to be resolved."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Secretary of State said during a meeting with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on January 19 that Washington was also concerned about the presence of foreign fighters in Libya.
Erdogan announced earlier in January that he had dispatched Turkish military elements to Libya to ensure stability for the GNA.
Pompeo also held talks on the sidelines of the Berlin summit with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, another country involved in the Libyan conflict.
A draft communique circulating early on January 19 urged rival sides to refrain from hostilities against oil infrastructure, agencies reported as senior officials from countries backing the warring parties converged in the German capital.
The draft communique reportedly described Tripoli-based state oil company NOC as the only legitimate entity that can sell Libyan oil.
Tribesmen loyal to Haftar have reportedly blocked off all oil ports in eastern Libya.
A cease-fire between the rival Libyan forces had been scheduled to enter into force on January 12, but has been shaky at best.
Last week, Haftar left talks in Moscow without signing a cease-fire deal proposed by Moscow and Ankara.
Libya has been plagued with violence and unrest since a NATO-backed campaign ousted longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
UN experts and diplomats say Russian military contractors in recent months have deployed alongside Haftar’s LNA, which has also received air support from the U.A.E. and backing from Jordan and Egypt.
Moscow denies direct military involvement.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP
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