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UN Mediator 'Very Optimistic' About Latest Steps in Libya Peace Talks

By Lisa Schlein October 21, 2020

A United Nations mediator reports positive developments after two days of face-to-face peace talks involving military leaders from Libya's warring parties. A fourth round of the Libyan Joint Military Commission aimed at achieving a permanent cease-fire is taking place in Geneva this week.

The head of the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, Stephanie Williams, says the two sides have reached agreements on several important issues which directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people.

Williams says the Libyan delegations have agreed to open land routes that connect all the regions and cities of Libya and to resume flights throughout the country. She says they have agreed to stop the use of inflammatory language and to hold accountable those who use hate speech on social media to incite violence.

She says Libya's military leaders also have agreed to support the current calm in the country and to avoid any military escalation. Williams says she believes these agreements will stick because they are Libyan-owned solutions.

"And, I think that is really the most optimistic and positive development that I can see. After all, it is their country and Libya is for Libyans. And, that is why I continue to be very optimistic that the parties here are going to reach a more lasting and permanent cease-fire," Williams said.

Libya has been in a state of turmoil since former dictator Moammar Gadhafi was killed in 2011. A violent nationwide power struggle has been ongoing between two rival governments—the internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, and the Benghazi-based Libya National Army headed by renegade commander Khalifa Haftar. Fighting has died down in recent months under international pressure.

While expressing optimism about the talks, Williams said she sees many difficulties ahead as the parties dig into thornier issues of the agreements.

"We are in a sense in a bit of a race against time here because of the conditions in the country and frankly because of the degree of flagrant foreign intervention and blatant violations of the arms embargo," Williams said.

Turkey is a main supporter of the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli. Russia and the United Arab Emirates are among other countries allied with Haftar's forces.

All have come under criticism for violating the U.N. arms embargo and fueling Libya's destructive, chaotic civil war.

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