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Libya’s players agree to respect the arms embargo, press the ceasefire

BERLIN – World powers and other countries with interests in Libya’s protracted civil war on Sunday agreed to respect a highly violated arms embargo, devote military support to the warring parties and pressure them to reach a full ceasefire, German and UN leaders said.

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

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

Libya has sunk further into chaos since the ouster and assassination of its longtime dictator, Moammar Gaddafi, in 2011. It is now divided into rival administrations, each backed by different nations: the UN-recognized government based in Tripoli, led by Sarraj, and one based in the country’s eastern support, supported by Hifter’s forces.

Hifter’s forces have been on the offensive since April and have besieged Tripoli in an attempt to capture the capital. Hifter’s forces are backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, while the Tripoli government has turned to Turkey for troops and weapons.

A ceasefire that Russia and Turkey had mediated earlier this month marked the first break in the fighting in several months, but there have been repeated violations.

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

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

Libya’s two main rival leaders, Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and General Khalifa Hifter, each appointed five members of a military committee that will represent them in negotiations on a more permanent ceasefire, Merkel said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the committee would be convened “in Geneva in the coming days.”

Merkel said the summit participants agreed that they would not provide further support to the warring parties in Libya ahead of the committee meeting and “cease operations as long as the ceasefire lasts.”

However, there was no explicit obligation to withdraw existing military aid. It “is a matter of the right ceasefire,” Merkel said.

She said the conference had not discussed specific sanctions for violating the arms embargo.

The summit’s final statement said the participants “urge all actors to refrain from any activity that exacerbates the conflict or is in breach of (UN) arms embargo or ceasefire, including funding military capabilities or recruiting mercenaries.”

Guterres said the Berlin conference had succeeded in averting the “risk of a genuine regional escalation.”

“That risk was averted in Berlin – of course, provided it is possible to maintain the ceasefire and then go into a ceasefire,” he said.

Guterres stressed the importance of the next step, saying all participants pledged to “put pressure on the parties to achieve a full ceasefire.”

“We can not monitor anything that does not exist,” Guterres said.

Merkel added that the participants will continue to hold regular additional meetings to ensure that the process continues, “so that the people of Libya have their right to a peaceful life.”

Sarraj and Hifter did not meet face to face in Berlin.

“We spoke to them individually because the differences between them are so great that they are not talking to each other at the moment,” Merkel said.

The two men were not direct participants in the conference, but were in Berlin and kept abreast of developments, she added.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “we know today’s signatures are not enough.”

He said countries that were not invited on Sunday will have the opportunity to attend future meetings of the four committees dealing with various aspects of the crisis, among them military issues and economics.

“We know the work has only just begun,” Maas said.

On Sunday, Libya’s National Oil Corporation said guards under the command of Hifter’s forces closed two key oil fields in the country’s southwestern desert, following the earlier closure of all eastern export terminals. Only offshore fields and a smaller facility remain in operation, the company said.

Guterres said he was “very concerned” about oil developments. Germany’s Maas said he and Merkel had discussed the blocked terminals with Sarraj and Hifter.

“Both sides said they were in principle ready to find a solution to this,” he added, but “it depends on different circumstances.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the conference was “very useful.”

Pompeop said that “I think we made progress – at least progress in getting fewer new weapon systems, fewer new forces to flow into the region so that we can at least stand still,” allowing work towards a political solution.

However, the Berlin agreement was immediately met with some skepticism.

“This is all very good talk and optics, but there is still no enforcement mechanism to actively stop a country from violating the arms embargo,” said Anas Gamati, the founder of a Tripoli-based area. thinktank Sadeq Institute.

Claudia Gazzini, a Libyan analyst for the International Crisis Group, said the idea of ​​the “military committee” is new and and is definitely a step forward from where we were last week in Moscow, “when Hifter suddenly left and formally refused to sign. a ceasefire under Turkish and Russian pressure.

“But in Libya, there is a tendency for committees to become synonymous with postponement,” she added. “I think there will be a lot of brinkmanship.”

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Associated Press journalist Isabel DeBre in Cairo contributed to this report.

Frank Jordans and Geir Moulson, Associated Press

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