Putin to attend Libya peace conference

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in the Presidental Palace in Helsinki, Finland August 21, 2019. — Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva pic via Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in the Presidental Palace in Helsinki, Finland August 21, 2019. — Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva pic via Reuters

MOSCOW, Jan 17 — Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in a peace conference on Libya in Germany on Sunday, as world powers step up efforts to find a lasting ceasefire.

Ahead of the peace conference Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who Moscow is accused of supporting in Libya’s conflict, thanked Putin for his peace efforts, the Kremlin said.

“On January 19 Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Berlin to take part in the International conference on Libya,” the Kremlin said.

The peace talks in Berlin will focus on stopping the fighting and launching a “broad political dialogue” under the auspices of the United Nations, the Kremlin added in a statement.

Libya has been in turmoil since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was killed in a 2011 Nato-backed uprising.

Last April, an assault on Tripoli by military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces sparked fighting that has killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters, displacing thousands.

In another statement, the Russian presidential administration said Haftar had thanked Putin for his efforts to end fighting in the war-ravaged country.

“Vladimir Putin, my dear friend!” Haftar said in a letter to Putin, quoted by the Kremlin.

“I express my personal gratitude and appreciation for the efforts of the Russian Federation to bring about peace and stability in Libya,” Haftar was quoted as saying.

Earlier this week, Libya’s warring sides — Haftar and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj — attended talks in Moscow but Haftar left without signing a permanent truce.

He told Putin he fully supported “the Russian initiative to hold peace talks in Moscow which he added “should lead to peace in Libya”.

Haftar also said he was ready to visit Russia again to continue dialogue.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s acting foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said preparations for the peace conference were nearly ready but lamented that the war-scarred country’s rivals refused to speak to each other.

“In my opinion, final documents look practically ready,” Lavrov told reporters.

But he underlined the huge tension between the heads of Libya’s warring sides.

“So far ties between them are very tense, they don’t even want to be in the same room to say nothing of meeting each other,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said it was important for both sides not to “repeat past mistakes” and put forward additional demands after the Berlin conference. — AFP

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