MOSCOW / ANKARA (Reuters) – Libyan war leaders made some progress in the indirect peace talks in Moscow on Monday, but did not reach an agreement on an unconditional and open ceasefire.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended a joint press conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, on January 13, 2020. Pavel Golovkin / Pool via REUTERS
In talks that lasted approximately eight hours, mediators Russia and Turkey urged rivals to sign a binding truce to end a nine-month war and pave the way for an agreement that would stabilize the North African country.
Fayez al-Serraj, who heads the internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tripoli, signed the ceasefire agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Khalifa Haftar, commander of the faction of the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the east that has been trying to take the capital, Tripoli, had asked for more time to consider the ceasefire .
“Today we can report that some progress has been made,” Lavrov told reporters at the elegant 19th-century mansion in Moscow, where the talks took place.
Cavusoglu told reporters that Haftar wanted to have until Tuesday morning to decide.
The Russian-Turkish momentum, which involved laborious indirect contacts between the two Libyan delegations, is the last attempt to end the chaos that has engulfed the oil-producing country since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011.
The Russian TASS news agency reported that Serraj had refused to engage in direct talks with Haftar, forcing Russian and Turkish diplomats to act as intermediaries.
The two men met for the last time in Abu Dhabi in February last year before talks about a power-sharing agreement were broken and Haftar moved his troops to Tripoli in April, expanding his control beyond the east and south .
Speaking with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Ankara, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his country was working to ensure a ceasefire in Libya became permanent.
He said he expected the Moscow talks to form the basis of discussions at a summit in Berlin on Sunday, which he said he would attend with Conte and Russian President Vladimir Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday she planned to organize a summit after having talks with Putin.
TRANQUIL IN TRIPOLI
Turkey supports Haftar’s rival, Serraj, while Russian military contractors have deployed along with Haftar’s LNA forces, which are also backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
The Tripoli war has destroyed the economy of Libya and runs the risk of interrupting oil production and causing flows of African migrants trying to reach Europe in ships with the help of smugglers who exploit the chaos.
The Moscow talks came after a ceasefire, initiated by Turkey and Russia, saw a pause in intense fighting and airstrikes on Sunday, although both factions accused each other of violating that truce while skirmishes continued around Tripoli.
Reuters journalists in Tripoli said there was silence in the center on Monday and could not hear clashes or bombings.
Mitiga airport, the only airport that operates in the capital, resumed operations, a Reuters witness said. The flights were suspended earlier this month due to the fall of nearby rockets.
Haftar’s troops have not been able to break Tripoli’s defenses, but in recent weeks they have made some small advances with the help of Russian mercenaries, residents say. That has pushed Turkey, which has commercial interests in the country, to deploy soldiers in Libya to help the Tripoli government.
Russia and Turkey have become important players in Libya, joining Arab countries such as Egypt or the United Arab Emirates, which have filled a void left by Western powers that show little interest in the OPEC producer since 2011.
Additional reports by Alexander Marrow, Polina Ivanova and Anton Kolodazhnyy in Moscow, Andreas Rinke in Berlin, Ulf Laessing and Aidan Lewis, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay in Ankara and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, edited by Andrew Osborn and Ulf Laessing, edition by William Maclean and Timothy Heritage