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Germany Hosts Crucial Summit In Bid To End Libyan Fighting, Prevent 'New Syria'

By RFE/RL January 19, 2020

Representatives of more than 10 countries, including Turkey, the United States, and Russia, are gathering in Berlin on January 19 in an attempt to end the conflict in Libya and prevent what some fear could result in another Syria-like refugee crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting the presidents of Turkey, France, and Russia and other world leaders under the UN-backed meeting to convince outside powers to stop fueling the conflict with troops, arms, or financial support.

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.

The leaders of Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and rebel leader Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the city of Tobruk, were also expected to attend.

GNA head Fayez al-Serraj reportedly cast doubt on Haftar's agenda just hours before the meeting, telling the German dpa news agency on January 19 that "long experience makes us doubt the intentions, seriousness, and commitment of the other side, whom everyone knows seeks powers at any price."

On his way to the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged other leaders not to "sacrifice" hopes for a cease-fire there "to the ambitions of the merchants of blood and chaos."

The GNA is supported by NATO-member Turkey and its ally Qatar.

Turkey and Russia have both been criticized by UN and Western officials who say their efforts to arm their allies have led to an intensification of the violence.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is attending for the United States, and China, Britain, Italy, Egypt, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) were all expected to have representatives at the summit.

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 communique was among the topics up for discussion.

Tribesmen loyal to Haftar have reportedly blocked off all oil ports in eastern Libya.

The draft communique reportedly described Tripoli-based state oil company NOC as the only legitimate entity that can sell Libyan oil.

A cease-fire had been scheduled to enter into force on January 12, but it has been shaky at best.

And Haftar left talks last week in Moscow without signing a cease-fire deal proposed by Moscow and Ankara.

Shaky Cease-Fire

Libya has been plagued with violence and unrest since a NATO-backed campaign ousted longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

There are international fears that further conflict could spark another flood of refugees from the region similar to the Syrian exodus amid an ongoing war there.

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.

Erdogan announced earlier this month that he had dispatched Turkish military elements to Libya to ensure stability for the GNA.

The United Nations, European Union, and Arab League are also participating in the Berlin summit.

A U.S. official traveling with Pompeo told reporters in Berlin that Libya's conflict is increasingly becoming like Syria, where a multiyear civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions, with many fleeing to Europe to create an immigration crisis.

"I think it's so complex and the heels are so far dug in that I would have moderate expectations as we go into this," the official said on the eve of the summit.

At the meeting, Germany and the UN will push rival Libyan camps fighting over the capital, Tripoli, to agree to a truce and monitoring mechanism as first steps toward peace, diplomats and a draft communique said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP


Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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