Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu met with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar on February 19th, and the two discussed the situation in Libya.
They discussed matters and “stressed the importance of talks held on January 13 in Moscow for establishing ceasefire and launching the process of normalizing the situation in the country,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Shoigu and Haftar confirmed the need to fulfill the decisions made at the Berlin conference on Libya. They also agreed that the only way to solve the crisis was through political means and confirmed commitment to Libya’s independence, unity and territorial integrity.
“On February 19, Russian Defense Minister General Shoigu met with the Libyan National Army commander Marshal Haftar. The situation in Libya was discussed during the dialogue. The important role of the talks held in Moscow on January 13 of this year was noted to establish a ceasefire and start the process of normalizing the situation in the country,” the Defense Ministry statement said of the meeting.
On February 18th, the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) left the peace negotiations with the Libyan National Army (LNA).
The GNA said the reason was that Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces had shelled the Tripoli port and that it went against peace efforts.
This Reuters report on the GNA decision to suspend UN hosted talks in Geneva after Haftar’s forces attacked Tripoli port today includes a line noting Haftar “has been trying to take the capital in a near year-long campaign”
Let that sink in: almost a year https://t.co/4npZe3O3jT
— Mary Fitzgerald (@MaryFitzger) February 18, 2020
As a result, the Libyan Oil Company announced that all oil tankers would be withdrawn from the port of Tripoli after the bombing.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned the attack on the port, saying it could have led to a “real catastrophe” had a nearby vessel transporting liquified gas been hit, but added it hoped the talks could resume.
“The Mission calls for an end to the escalation and provocative actions, especially expansion of the conflict area, and urges all parties to resort to dialogue as the only means to end the crisis,” it said.
The GNA made no mention that it used GRAD rockets to target LNA positions south of Tripoli, only that the LNA shelled the port.
The LNA said it bombed a vessel carrying weapons from Turkey in Tripoli’s port.
Turkish security officials told Al Jazeera that there were no Turkish cargo ships in the port at the time of the attack.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said Libyans in the capital were expressing “panic, fear, and frustration” as the situation deteriorates.
“People are worried that heavy fighting might renew at any time. People in densely populated areas, they are worried that the attack on the port could be the beginning of other attacks in residential areas,” he said.
The UN-backed GNA said it would halt its participation in UN talks aimed at brokering a lasting ceasefire in the war-torn country where a fragile truce has been repeatedly violated.
It entirely blamed the LNA for the failure.
“We are announcing the suspension of our participation in the military talks taking place in Geneva until firm positions are adopted against the aggressor [Haftar] and his violations” of the truce, the GNA said in a press release.
“Without a lasting ceasefire … negotiations make no sense. There can be no peace under the bombing.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the Tripoli government’s withdrawal from the military committee talks in Geneva following the attack, and said his military would support the GNA in seizing all of Libyan territory.
“If a fair agreement did not come out of the meetings in which the international community is also involved … we will support the legitimate government in Tripoli having control over the entire country,” he said.
According to the GNA, the LNA is carrying out the airstrikes in order to cause a crisis in everyday life for the civilians. Despite the fact that Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces have purged 90% of the country from terrorist elements and have returned normality in most of the country.
“It is clear the objective of the systematic bombardments of the residential areas, the airport and the port, in addition to the total blockage of the oil installations, is to provoke crises for the citizens in all the aspects of their life”, the GNA said.
The talks that fell through began earlier on February 18th, brokered by UN Libya Envoy Ghassan Salame.
The first round that took place earlier in February led to nothing, but Salame said there was “more hope” this time, mainly because of the approval of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a “lasting ceasefire”.
— JAMES BAYS (@baysontheroad) February 18, 2020
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- GNA Suspends Participation In Libya’s Military Talks
- Libyan National Army Says It Struck Turkish Ship Loaded With Weapons At Tripoli Port (UPDATED)