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‘Cautious optimism’ as conference pushes Libya peace

Germany’s foreign minister on Monday voiced “cautious optimism” over efforts to end the conflict in Libya, as top diplomats sought to foster a peace drive given new impetus by a series of talks in recent weeks.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, other top diplomats and representatives of neighbouring countries at the meeting in Berlin.

“We believe that there is now a window in which much has become possible that was not possible before. I think we must seize that,” Maas said.

“There is reason for cautious optimism – we see increasingly signs of a switch from a militaristic to a political logic,” he added.

Libya has been wracked by conflict since the overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Ghadaffi in 2011, with rival power centres as well as a myriad of militias vying for control.

But there has been increased hope since the two main warring factions separately announced in August that they would cease hostilities, which was followed by a series of UN-backed talks.

“In recent weeks and months, I have been encouraged to witness a lull in the fighting,” said Guterres, adding that “direct confrontation between the parties has been limited.”

‘A scandal’

The rival parties were brought together in Berlin in January, but attempts to impose a ceasefire and arms embargo largely failed for months.

Guterres said Monday that the commitments made in Berlin had to be upheld, including “full and unconditional implementation of the Security Council arms embargo.”

“The violations of the embargo are a scandal and call into question the basic commitment to peace of all involved,” he said.

The two main factions are based around the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli and a parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019.

But it has been beaten back by the GNA with military support from Turkey, which has turned the tide with the deployment of highly effective drones.

Diplomats say that Haftar no longer has the influence he used to wield, and the key eastern powerbroker is now Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament.

The head of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, has said he would step down by the end of this month as part of efforts to broker a peace agreement and both sides have called for national elections.

‘Chart a path’

Talks in Morocco last month brought together five members of the Tripoli-based GNA and five from the rival parliament of Tobruk.

Two days of talks between representatives of Libya’s rival administrations that took place in Egypt in late September paved the way for further face-to-face discussions.

A joint statement by Maas and Guterres after Monday’s talks said the meeting “highlighted the need to seize the opportunity created by the positive developments over the past few weeks to achieve peace and stability in Libya.”

All Libyan parties should “act responsibly and constructively in the interest of their nation” and build consensus based on an “inclusive political settlement leading to elections that would restore democratic legitimacy,” it added.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said the international community wanted to help Libya “chart a path to peace.”

“We agreed during our meeting today that upcoming… talks are an important opportunity to do this and I urge all parties to make the most of it,” he wrote on Twitter.

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