Libya’s rival leaders to meet in Moscow for ceasefire talks

Observers hope Serraj and Haftar will formalize a ceasefire implemented Sunday

War-torn Libya’s rival leaders Fayez al-Serraj and Khalifa Haftar are set to meet in Moscow on Monday, January 13 with the hope of signing a ceasefire agreement, Russia’s foreign ministry said.

The planned meeting comes after a ceasefire between the two sides sides largely held since being announced by rogue commander Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army on Sunday. The ceasefire was welcomed by Fayez al-Serraj, head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, which is backed by the U.N.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Monday’s talks are in line with an earlier agreement between the Russian and Turkish governments, which back the opposing sides in the conflict.

Libya has been in conflict since the toppling of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 in a popular uprising backed by NATO.

Forces loyal to general Khalifa Haftar slowly captured the country’s east and south before launching an offensive to take Tripoli in April 2019.  The conflict has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced more than 120,000 more, according to the World Health Organization.

Speaking in Rome after meeting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday, Serraj said his side welcomed the ceasefire but did not trust Haftar’s forces to withdraw from Tripoli’s outskirts, a move he described as a necessary condition for formally implementation.

Foreign intervention

Turkey sent ground troops to Libya earlier this month to bolster the U.N.-backed government and counter clandestine Russian military support for Haftar, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged there are Russians fighting in Libya, but denied they are there on behalf of Russia’s government.

Reports have circulated that a limited number of Syrian rebels under Ankara’s sway have been sent to Libya as well.

Turkey’s military intervention prompted a flurry of reactions from governments involved in the conflict. Egypt, which backs Haftar, called a meeting of foreign ministers of France, Cyprus and Greece in Cairo last week.

Haftar’s forces took the coastal city of Sirte from the GNA earlier this month, raising the stakes and drawing international condemnation.

Haftar’s success is due in large part to a tactic of convincing tribal groups loyal to the GNA to switch sides.

Germany plans to host a summit in Berlin on January 19 in hope of resolving Libya’s conflict. Erdogan plans to attend, Reuters reported.

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