Libya's rival leaders to hold peace talks in Moscow

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj (L) and Libyan army commander Khalifa Haftar (R)

The Russian Foreign Ministry says Libya's warring rival leaders are set to hold peace talks in Moscow on 13 January. The discussions will be attended by Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, and by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

Earlier in the day, the Russian and Turkish foreign and defense ministers kicked off a "meeting dedicated to the Libyan settlement,” Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.

“Representatives of the Libyan sides have arrived and will join the talks shortly," Zakharova added.​

Speaking on a local news channel, the head of Libya’s High Council of State, Khaled al-Mechri, said Sarraj and Haftar are scheduled to sign a cease-fire.

The head of the Russian contact group on Libya, Lev Dengov, told Interfax that the two sides would discuss "the possibility of signing a truce and the details of such a document."

A cease-fire saw a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes a day earlier, though both sides have accused each other of violating the truce as skirmishes continued around the capital.

Many observers say a cease-fire will be hard to maintain given the fractious, unsteady nature of Libya’s military alliances.

The North African country has been torn by violence since longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

The country has two rival administrations: the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and Haftar's in the city of Tobruk. The GNA is supported by NATO-member Turkey and its ally Qatar. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced earlier this month that he had dispatched military elements to Libya to ensure stability for the GNA.

UN experts and diplomats say that Russian military contractors in recent months have deployed alongside Haftar's LNA, which has also received air support from the United Arab Emirates and backing from Jordan and Egypt.

Turkey and Russia have both been criticized by UN and Western officials who say their efforts to arm their allies have led to an intensification of the violence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any direct military involvement in the Libyan conflict.

While delivering a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow on January 11, Putin was asked whether Russian mercenaries, including private military contractors, are fighting in Libya.

“If there are Russian citizens there, they don’t represent the interests of the Russian state and don’t receive money from the Russian government,” Putin said.

Merkel said she hoped the "Turkish-Russian [cease-fire] efforts will be successful."

Berlin and Moscow are acting as mediators in the conflict, which Germany has warned could become a "second Syria."

Putin said, "I am really counting on the opposing sides in Libya ceasing fire, ceasing armed combat...within a few hours. It's important to bring an end to the armed confrontation,” he added.



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