Borrell in Libya to push for peace talks

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell meets the head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli on 1 September 2020. [Twitter account of Josep Borrelll]

The EU’s foreign policy chief held talks with Libya’s UN recognised government on Tuesday (1 September) to push for renewed efforts to resolve the country’s long-running conflict.

Josep Borrell met the head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, whose administration recently announced a truce after months of hostilities with troops loyal to eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar.

“#Libya remains top priority for EU. We welcome recent ceasefire understanding, and continue to support dialogue and Libyan-led political resolution to conflict,” Borrell tweeted after the meeting.

Haftar launched an offensive to seize Tripoli in April 2019, but was beaten back this year by Turkish-backed pro-GNA forces. Fighting has stalled around the central Mediterranean port of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s eastern oil fields and export terminals.

The GNA and Aguila Saleh, speaker of the eastern-based parliament that partly backs Haftar, in late August made separate announcements that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections, drawing praise from world powers.

“EU strongly supports Berlin process, mediation efforts and deescalation measures, including arms embargo – key elements to bring Libyan conflict to an end,” Borrell tweeted.

He was referring to a January summit in the German capital where the main countries involved in the Libyan conflict agreed to respect an arms embargo and to stop interfering in Libya’s domestic affairs.

The 5+5 committee, formally named the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission, started meeting in Geneva on 3 February. The committee consists of 5 senior military officers chosen by the GNA and 5 senior military officers chosen by Haftar.

Borrell said he had also discussed ways “to advance (the) political process”, revive joint military talks between the two sides and to lift an oil blockade imposed since January by pro-Haftar groups demanding a fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.

According to a communiqué from Borrell’s services, he also met with the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation, Mustafa Sanalla to discuss the worrying situation of the oil blockade that urgently requires joint international resolve to prevent a collapse of Libya’s oil sector, which is crucial for Libya’s economy and the prosperity of its people.

Haftar last month authorised a partial lifting of the months-long blockade of oil terminals to help ease power cuts in the east, according to a military official loyal to him.

The north African country, which sits on the continent’s biggest crude reserves, has been mired in a complex web of conflicts since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia, while the GNA is backed by Turkey and Qatar.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who also met with Sarraj on Tuesday, said Italy supported the ceasefire and that foreign interference “must stop”.

According to comments released after the meeting, Di Maio called Libya “a crucial crossroads for building a new model” of development in the Mediterranean, while Sarraj voiced interest in Italian firms investing “to support Libya’s development and growth”.

Di Maio previously met with Sarraj in late June, promising that a Mediterranean naval operation to enforce the arms embargo would be effective.

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