Putin to attend Berlin's Libya peace talks as Russia expects progress
January 18 2020 09:23 AM
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Dpa/Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend an international conference on the Libyan peace process in Berlin this weekend, the Kremlin announced on Friday.

Russia expects progress at the conference, to be hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, less than a week after peace talks in Moscow failed to secure a deal.

The Berlin conference is intended to solidify agreement on a ceasefire that went into effect last weekend for the war-torn northern African country.

"It is most important that the ceasefire is observed," Russia's top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters in Moscow on Friday. He described the truce as a "certain step forward."  Libyan General Khalifa Haftar had left the Moscow talks without signing the ceasefire deal. Germany's top diplomat, Heiko Maas, who subsequently visited Libya this week, said Haftar had tacitly agreed to the truce.

According to an internal UN document, the conference is to work towards a permanent ceasefire and the implementation of an existing weapons embargo.

The draft of the conference's final statement, which dpa has seen, also calls for reforms in the economic and security sectors.

 In addition, representatives from more than ten countries are expected to commit on Sunday to return to a political process in Libya and to agree to comply with international humanitarian law and human rights.

Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 NATO-supported overthrow of long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi, an ally of Russia since the Soviet era.

Libya has two competing administrations: a UN-backed government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli and another allied with Haftar in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Lavrov said representatives of those Libyan administrations signed the ceasefire deal, although Haftar did not.

The Berlin conference is intended to discuss views on how to achieve the "cessation of hostilities, reconciliation of the warring parties and the launch of a broad political dialogue under the auspices of the UN," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron are among the confirmed attendees.

As Greece has complained about being left out of the conference, Haftar made an unexpected stopover in Athens on Friday.

The head of Germany's Green Party, Annalena Baerbock, criticised the fact that Greece and Tunisia have not been invited to the Libya conference.

"And I think that's really a mistake," Baerbock told German regional public broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk (SWR) in its interview of the week.

Greece said it expected Germany, as a representative of European interests, would insist Libya scrap a maritime agreement it signed with Turkey last year.

"The European Union already took a firm position on this issue," Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said after meeting with Haftar.

Greece opposes the agreement between Libya's UN-backed government and Turkey on military and security cooperation and maritime borders, under which Ankara and Tripoli divided their zones of influence in the Mediterranean.

Athens insists the deal violates international maritime law and encroaches on potential gas fields south of Crete. Cyprus, Israel and Egypt also see their interests violated by the agreement.

In an interview with Germany's Spiegel news magazine, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell mentioned the possibility of sending troops from the bloc's member states to Libya.

"If there is a ceasefire in Libya, then the EU must be prepared to help - possibly also with soldiers," Borrell said.




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