No Libya deal in Moscow, all eyes on Berlin now

Photo: EPA Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar (L) shakes hands with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov (R), Moscow, 13 January.

Libya's eastern strongman General Khalifa Haftar has left Moscow without signing a ceasefire agreement to end nine months of fighting in the country, the Russian foreign ministry confirmed to AFP on Tuesday. Haftar on Monday evening asked for until Tuesday morning to look over the agreement already signed by the head of UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj, but left the Russian capital without signing, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

The two delegations from Libya on Monday spent seven hours in an attempt to sign a deal outlining the terms of a permanent truce in Libya, following a ceasefire that took effect over the weekend.

Mediated by Russian and Turkish foreign and defence ministers, the talks did not include the warring sides meeting face to face, but Moscow said there was “progress” and that Haftar viewed the ceasefire document “positively”. Russian state media citing Libyan sources later said however that his plane departed Russia after a failure to reach a permanent agreement, leaving the fragile truce in uncertainty.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he would “teach a lesson” to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar if he resumed fighting after abandoning ceasefire talks in Moscow. “We will not hesitate to teach a deserved lesson to the putschist Haftar if he continues his attacks on the country’s legitimate administration and our brothers in Libya,” Erdogan told a meeting of his party in Ankara in a televised speech.

He said the issue would now be discussed at talks in Berlin on Sunday attended by European, North African and Middle Eastern countries, as well as the UN, EU, Africa Union and Arab League.

Visiting Cairo on Tuesday Italian PM Giuseppe Conte confirmed that the Berlin conference on Libya "will take place next Sunday unless something unexpected happens". "The invitation from Chancellor (Angela) Merkel has just arrived," he added. "The fact that the agreement was not signed, that the Haftar side did not sign it, should not distract us," Conte noted. He did not rule out the deployment of Italian troops in Libya but only with a clear mandate.

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