Haftar of Libya committed to ceasefire says Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) – A Libyan military commander who fights an offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli, is committed to a ceasefire, Germany’s Foreign Minister said Thursday in an apparent breakthrough for efforts to end a crisis of almost a decade in the country of North Africa.

FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS / Philippe Wojazer / File Photo

The minister, Heiko Maas, added that Commander Khalifa Haftar is also willing to attend a conference in Berlin on Sunday to address the conflict, the Foreign Ministry said, after Mass visited the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Haftar’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Maas’ comment follows the failed efforts of Russia and Turkey to persuade Haftar on a visit to Moscow this week to agree to a lasting ceasefire and stop the offensive in the Libyan capital. Haftar left Moscow without signing the proposal.

The nine-month war on Tripoli is just the last chaos in Libya, an OPEC oil exporter that has become a center for human traffickers to send migrants by ships to Italy, while Islamist militants have exploited the generalized disorder

Germany holds a summit on Sunday that brings together foreign powers and Libyan rival camps backed by them to try to end the war on Tripoli and resume talks on an agreement to share power.

Maas flew to Haftar base in eastern Libya on Thursday to discuss the Berlin summit.

“General Haftar has expressed his willingness to contribute to the success of the Libyan Conference in Berlin and is willing to participate. He has repeated his commitment to observe the existing ceasefire, “the Maas ministry tweeted after the Benghazi meetings.

EXTERNAL POWERS

The country has fractured and deeply unstable, with external powers that support rival factions, since veteran dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in a 2011 uprising.

Turkey supports the Serraj government, while Haftar has received support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Russian mercenaries.

Turkey is starting to send troops to Libya in support of the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, President Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

“So that the legitimate government in Libya remains standing and stability is established, we are now sending our soldiers to this country,” Erdogan said at an event in Ankara.

Erdogan warned Tuesday that Turkey will not refrain from “teaching a lesson” to the eastern Libyan forces of Haftar if they continue their attacks on the GNA. The talks in Moscow were the last attempt to stabilize Libya, which has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa.

Turkey and Libya signed two agreements in November, one on military cooperation and one on maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean. Erdogan said Turkey will quickly begin granting licenses for exploration and drilling in the region.

“In the areas that remain between Turkey and Libya, it is now legally impossible for exploration and drilling activities or a pipeline without the approval of both parties,” he said.

Written by Ulf Laessing, Edited by William Maclean

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