Libya ceasefire deal stalls in Moscow | News | DW | 13.01.2020
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Libya ceasefire deal stalls in Moscow

Russian officials have hailed "progress," although Libyan warlord Haftar has delayed signing the agreement. Warring factions are due in Berlin later this month to finalize a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that most parties to the conflict have signed the agreement except for Libyan general-turned-warlord Khalifa Haftar and his ally Aguila Saleh, speaker of Libya's breakaway parliament in the east.

"There has been certain progress," said Lavrov. But Haftar and Aguila "have asked for a bit more time until morning to make a decision on signing" the document, he added.

Haftar, who leads the militia known as Libyan National Army, is a key guarantor of the rival eastern government's power.

The warring factions are expected in Berlin later this month but a date has yet to be set, according to German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Read more: Germany, Russia see goals align amid tension in Middle East

Libyan protesters gather during a demonstration against the Turkish parliament's decision to send Turkish forces to Libya

Libyan strongman Haftar had previously served as a general in Gadhafi's regime

Uncertainty looms

Haftar's forces have been locked in fierce fighting for control of the Libyan capital Tripoli, where the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) remains in power.

Although forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government have managed to fend off Haftar's offensive, the entrance of Russian mercenaries and Turkish soldiers on opposing sides threatened to further plunge the country into chaos.  

The agreement follows diplomatic efforts led by Russia and Turkey to implement the ceasefire. But Russian experts said it's unclear whether an agreement would have any effect on the ground.

"It is hard to say how that will influence the situation on the battlefield," Andrey Ontikov, a Moscow-based Middle East expert, told DW. "There are a lot of foreign players involved in this conflict, a lot of foreign players who have an influence on the way the situation in Libya develops."

Read more: EU divisions over Libya leave a gap for others

Watch video 02:39

A ray of hope in war-torn Libya

'Not what Putin wants'

Turkey is at odds with Saudi Arabia, Russia and Egypt, which support the rival eastern-based Libyan government backed by Haftar. Last week, Turkey deployed troops to Libya in support of the Tripoli-based government.

The deployment could have put Turkish troops on a crash course with Russian mercenaries supporting Haftar's troops, military expert Pavel Felgenhauer told DW. 

"For Putin, Turkey is very important," Felgenhauer said. "In Libya, it was looking like Russia and Turkey would be fighting each other, not just by proxy but maybe even directly, with Russian mercenaries fighting for Haftar and Turkey pledging to deploy combat forces for Sarraj. And that was not what Putin wants at all."

Read more: Libya's civil war: US 'undermines any hope for a successful political process'

What is the Libyan conflict?

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 after dictator Moammar Gadhafi launched a brutal crackdown against anti-government protesters. NATO-backed rebels eventually defeated the regime and captured Gadhafi, who was killed in captivity. Since then, warring factions have fought a bitter war to maintain power in the North African country.

The the UN-backed government in Tripoli has been under attack since last April by forces loyal to Haftar. The latest development in the conflict has killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters, and displaced 146,000 Libyans, according to UN figures

Read more: Could Libya be Russia's new Syria?

Emily Sherwin, DW's correspondent in Moscow, contributed to this report.

ls/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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