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Russia, Turkey, France agree to stop meddling in Libyan conflict4 minutes read

The talks however failed to deliver “serious dialogue” between the warring parties — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — or to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a press conference at the end of a Peace summit on Libya at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 19, 2020. - Held under the auspices of the UN, the summit's main goal was to get foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop interfering in the war -- be it through the supply of weapons, troops or financing. (Photo by Michael Kappeler / POOL / AFP)


The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France including other world leaders have committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya’s civil war at a Berlin summit held Sunday, and to uphold a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the long-running civil war.

The world powers signed up an agreement to stop interfering in the Libyan civil war whether through weapons, troops or financing, an AFP report said.

But the talks failed to deliver “serious dialogue” between the warring parties — strongman Khalifa Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — or to get both sides to sign up to a permanent truce.

“Ensuring that a ceasefire is immediately respected is simply not easy to guarantee,” said summit host Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

“But I hope that through today’s conference, we have a chance the truce will hold further.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged that there are “still some questions on how well and effectively” the commitments can be monitored. 

But he said he is “optimistic that there will be less violence and… an opportunity to begin the conversation that (UN special envoy) Ghassan Salame has been trying to get going between the Libyan parties”.

Libya has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Most recently, Sarraj’s troops in Tripoli have been under attack since April from Haftar’s forces.

Clashes have killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displaced tens of thousands, until a fragile ceasefire backed by both Ankara and Moscow was put in place on January 12.

Although Sarraj’s government is recognised by the UN, powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar — turning a domestic conflict into what some have described as a proxy war in which international powers jostle to secure their own interests.

Alarm grew in recent weeks after Turkey ordered in troops to shore up Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

– ‘Small step’ forward -UN chief Antonio Guterres said the world powers had made “a strong commitment to stop” the conflict escalating into a regional confrontation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to some positive takeaways from the talks, but said the summit failed to launch necessary talks between Sarraj and Haftar.

“It is clear that we have not yet succeeded in launching a serious and stable dialogue between them,” Lavrov told reporters after the conference, where Haftar and Sarraj did not meet face to face. 

Nevertheless, the Libyan parties had taken “a small step” forward, Lavrov added.

Pro-Haftar forces upped the ante on the eve of the talks by blocking oil exports at Libya’s key ports, crippling the country’s main income source in protest at Turkey’s decision to send troops to shore up Sarraj.

In afternoon trade on Asian markets Monday, oil prices rose more than one percent on supply concerns following the move.

– Vested interests -The flaring oil crisis underlined the devastating impact of foreign influence in the conflict, in which Sarraj’s GNA is backed by Turkey and Qatar while Haftar has the support of Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Ahead of the talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Haftar, saying he needed to drop his “hostile attitude” if Libya is to have any chance at winning peace.

Russia has been accused of sending in mercenaries to help Haftar as Moscow seeks to extend its influence in the region — allegations it denies.

For Turkey, the fall of Sarraj’s GNA could jeopardise a maritime boundary agreement the parties signed. It gives Ankara extensive rights over the eastern Mediterranean where the recent discovery of undersea gas reserves has triggered a scramble by littoral states. 

Erdogan has repeatedly urged Europe to stand united behind Sarraj’s government, warning that Tripoli’s fall could allow jihadist groups like the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda to regroup.

Further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for Europe, he has cautioned.

Amid the latest apparent ceasefire violation — according to GNA forces Sunday, Haftar’s militia opened fire on them in southern Tripoli — Sarraj issued a plea for international “protection troops”.

The call echoed a similar suggestion by the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, who stressed that monitors must be present to check that any ceasefire and weapons embargo are respected. 

With the idea gathering pace, Britain and Italy had voiced readiness to help, ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday that will discuss how the bloc can contribute to implementing Sunday’s deal.

But as Guterres noted, that discussion remains premature.

“First, we need to have a ceasefire — we cannot monitor something that doesn’t exist.”

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North Africa

Sudan gets new defence minister

Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council said.

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PHOTO: Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin, left, takes the oath as Minister of Defense in front of Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, at the Presidential Palace, in Khartoum, Sudan, on June 2, 2020/ AP

Sudan has sworn in new defence minister, Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, two months after the death of the former defence chief, General Jamal al-Din Omar who died while in neighbouring South Sudan for peace talks with the country’s main rebel groups.

Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council.

The new defence chief came out of retirement to take the position.

His appointment comes a year after long-time autocrat Omar Bashir was toppled in mass protests in April 2019.

“We will work side by side doing our best… to achieve the goals of the constitutional declaration,” the official SUNA news agency quoted Ibrahim as saying after he was sworn in.

The swearing-in came amid tensions with neighbouring Ethiopia over a cross-border attack allegedly conducted by a militia backed by Ethiopia’s military.

Since August last year a transitional government, comprised of civilians and military officials, has taken over the reins of power in Sudan after political factions adopted a constitutional declaration.

The declaration paved the way for the new government to steer the country to civilian rule during a three-year transition.

But the transition has been fragile with the government facing major challenges, including soaring inflation, a huge public debt, tribal clashes and efforts to forge peace with rebels. 

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Tunisia to reopen borders, airspace on June 27

Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.

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Tunisia's new Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh speaks during the government handover ceremony in Carthage on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis on February 28, 2020. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh has announced that the country will reopen its land, air and sea borders from June 27.

He also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.

Fakhfakh made the announcement after a meeting with the national commission to combat coronavirus on Monday.

Tunisia has reported 1,084 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, a Xinxua news agency report said.

The North African country has received support from various countries including China.

On April 16, China donated a batch of medical aid to Tunisia’s Ministry of National Defense, including facemasks, test kits and medical protective googles.

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North Africa

Egypt, France plan to end terrorism in Libya

Both countries showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed the matter during a telelphone conversation on Saturday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have discussed the development of several regional issues, including the situation in Libya.

During a phone call on Saturday, Macron said he is keen to exchange views with Sisi over these issues as Cairo plays a key political role in the region, Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.

For his part, Sisi affirmed Egypt’s firm position towards the Libyan crisis based on restoring Libyan national state institutions, ending the spread of criminal groups and terrorist militias.

He added that Egypt also gives top priority to combating terrorism, achieving stability and security and putting an end to illegal foreign interventions in Libya, a Xinhua news agency report said.

The two presidents agreed to intensify their coordination in the coming period, stressing the necessity to end the Libyan crisis by reaching a political solution that paves the way for the return of security and stability in the country, the spokesman said.

They showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.

Libya has been locked in a civil war since the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Libyan conflict escalated in 2014, splitting power between two rival governments, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli and another in the northeastern city of Tobruk allied with self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.

While Egypt supports Haftar’s LNA that seeks to take over Tripoli, Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA. 

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