Heads of Libya’s warring sides to hold talks in Russia

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The Russian foreign ministry has said the heads of Libya’s two warring sides are scheduled to hold talks in Moscow on Monday, according to Interfax news agency.

The announcement came after reports that Fayez al-Sarraj, the chief of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and his rival, renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, may sign a ceasefire agreement in the Russian capital.

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Libya has been racked by turmoil since longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

The oil-rich country has since been split between two rival administrations based in the country’s east and west amid a conflict drawing increasing involvement from foreign powers. Since April, the Tripoli-based GNA has been under attack from eastern forces loyal to Haftar, which on January 6 captured the strategic coastal city of Sirte.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reporting from Moscow said this is expected to be a “long meeting”.

“There are reports that delegates from Egypt and also the United Arab Emirates will witness the ceremony here [in Russia]… the foreign ministry has announced it could take 10 hours or more to finalise.”

“We don’t know when the signatures will be set, but we are expecting something today,” she added.

‘Turn the page’

Interfax cited a Russian official as saying that al-Sarraj and Haftar would discuss “the possibility of signing a truce and the details of such a document”.

Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on Libya, said it was still unclear whether the two rivals would meet face to face.

Earlier, Khaled al-Mechri, head of Libya’s High Council of State, said the signing of the agreement in Moscow would pave the way for the revival of the political process in the country.

“Russia has managed to change the power balance in Libya,” Vaessen said.

“Putin has become this very important power broker [alongside President] Erdogan from Turkey.”

Al-Mechri told Al Ahrar TV that he would accompany al-Sarraj to Moscow, while Aguila Salah, speaker of the eastern-based parliament, would travel with Haftar.

Meanwhile, in a short televised speech on Monday, al-Sarraj called on Libyans to “turn the page on the past”.

“I call on all Libyans to turn the page on the past, reject discord and to close ranks to move towards stability and peace,” he said.

The GNA and Haftar’s LNA agreed to a conditional truce that was supposed to come into force at midnight local time on Sunday (22:01 GMT on Saturday), but both sides have accused the other of violations.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/libyan-rivals-sign-ceasefire-deal-moscow-monday-official-200113001441632.html

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