Libya ceasefire in doubt as Haftar walks out

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army left Moscow on Monday night without signing a ceasefire agreement drafted at talks in Russia, the TASS news agency cited the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying.

Fayez Al Sarraj, the prime minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, had signed the deal after a day of negotiations in Moscow brokered by Russia and Turkey, which seized the initiative from the West in attempting to end nine months of fighting around the Libyan capital.

CORRECTS NAME OF LIBYA'S PRIME MINISTER TO FAYEZ SARRAJ -- FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 file photo, Libya's Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj holds a press conference after his meeting with Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte at Chigi palace, in Rome. Russia is convening Libya’s rival leaders for peace talks on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, a diplomatic push closely coordinated with Turkey. Russia and Turkey, accused of exacerbating the fighting by backing dueling sides, have emerged as major players in Libya’s war, outmaneuvering European powers that pressed for peace as the fighting in the strategic, oil-rich country only accelerated. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
Libya's Government of National Accord Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj. AP

Field Marshal Haftar asked for a delay until Tuesday to consider signing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference on Monday. Hours later, however, he and his entourage left Moscow without inking the deal.

It is still unclear what happens now and if Field Marshal Haftar’s departure again puts a diplomatic solution out of reach.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it continues to work with all sides to reach a settlement.

But early on Tuesday, the LNA said they were "ready and determined" to achieve victory, the forces' official website said.

Turkey and Russia, which back rival forces, had pushed the fighting parties to accept the ceasefire. The truce began shakily over the weekend and now threatens to fall apart entirely.

“There will be no signing on any document at the expense of the heroic sacrifices and aspirations of the Libyans to salvation,” the LNA said on Twitter early Tuesday, confirming the departure of Field Marshal Haftar.

There was no further detail on what the LNA side's objections were.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu hold a joint press conference following the talks on a ceasefire deal between the warring sides in Libya, in Moscow on January 13, 2020. / AFP / POOL / Pavel Golovkin
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu hold a joint press conference following the talks on a ceasefire deal between the warring sides in Libya. AFP, Pool

“We have worked with our Russian partners all day long for the factions in Libya to sign a ceasefire letter and we drafted a text,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said alongside Mr Lavrov on Monday.

“We have taken into account suggestions, especially from the Haftar side, to reach a mutual understanding.”

Field Marshal Haftar’s departure casts doubt over hopes for an end to the battle over Tripoli.

An agreement would have spared Libya further fighting after years of upheaval that has left thousands dead and allowed Islamist extremists to dig in.

It would also have removed a key uncertainty for the oil market. Crude production in Libya, home to Africa’s largest proven reserves, has fluctuated as the warring sides fought over some of the country’s largest fields.

Libya has been enduring its worst violence since the 2011 NATO-backed ouster of Muammar Qaddafi, which ushered in years of instability that divided the country between rival administrations and turned it into a hub for migrants destined for Europe.

Field Marshal Haftar launched the offensive to capture Tripoli in April, vowing to end the rule of militias that back the Tripoli administration and include some hardline factions deemed terrorist groups by the international community.

More than 2,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since fighting began while the United Nations has been trying to lay the ground for a political conference to unite the country.

Germany has been preparing to host a summit on Sunday in Berlin led by the UN to coincide with a one day visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Libya’s warring parties would need to play a major role if a solution was to be found.

Turkey is seen as crucial to getting a political settlement as it recently stepped up its support for Mr Al Sarraj's administration by voting to deploy troops to the conflict.

Ankara has sent a small number of soldiers to Tripoli to bolster the pro-GNA militias and reports indicate that Turkish backed militiamen in Syria have also been asked to go to Libya to fight.

Updated: January 14, 2020 11:23 AM

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