UN-brokered Libya talks end with no formal truce deal

Algeria's foreign minister Sabri Boukadoum (C) leaves the headquarters of Libya's parallel eastern government after meeting with its foreign minister Abdulhadi Lahweej (L), in the coastal city of Benghazi in eastern Libya, on February 5, 2020, during a visit to discuss Algiers' efforts for a political solution to the Libyan conflict. (AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2020

UN-brokered Libya talks end with no formal truce deal

  • A UN-supported but weak administration, led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, holds only a shrinking area of western Libya, including the capital Tripoli

CAIRO: Libya’s warring sides ended several days of UN-brokered talks without reaching a deal to consolidate a provisional cease-fire in and around the capital, the UN said.
Another round of talks was proposed for later this month “as both sides agreed to the need to continue the negotiations,” according to a statement from the UN support mission in Libya released on Saturday.
The current cease-fire was brokered by Russia and Turkey on Jan. 12. It marked the first break in fighting in months, but there have been repeated violations from both sides.
Libya is split between rival governments, each backed by an array of foreign countries apparently jockeying for influence in order to control Libya’s resources.
A UN-supported but weak administration, led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, holds only a shrinking area of western Libya, including the capital Tripoli. It has been fending off an offensive since last April by forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who is allied with a rival government that controls much of Libya’s east and south, including key oil fields and export terminals.
Outside nations continue to break a UN arms embargo on Libya by sending equipment, weapons and even foreign fighters to both sides.

SPEEDREAD

The current cease-fire was brokered by Russia and Turkey on Jan. 12. It marked the first break in fighting in months, but there have been repeated violations from both sides.

The UN statement said there was “broad consensus” between the two sides on “the urgency for Libyans to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity” and to “stop the flow of non-Libyan fighters and send them out of the country.”
Al-Sarraj is backed by Turkey, Italy and Qatar. In the latest twist, Turkey has deployed Syrian fighters affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Daesh to the Libyan battlefield.
The UN statement said there was “widespread consensus” between the two sides to continue the fight against UN-identified militant groups, such as Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Sharia.
It said both sides expressed support for the exchange of prisoners, the return of the bodies of deceased fighters, and the return of displaced civilians to their homes.
The UN proposed a new round of cease-fire talks in Geneva on Feb. 18.


Syria Kurdish-led force launches new anti-Daesh campaign

Updated 32 min 58 sec ago

Syria Kurdish-led force launches new anti-Daesh campaign

  • Operations will focus on the vast east Syria desert near the border with Iraq

BEIRUT: US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria announced Friday a fresh campaign to hunt down remnants of the Daesh group near the Iraqi border following a recent uptick in attacks.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led paramilitary alliance that has spearheaded the ground fight against Daesh in Syria since 2015, said that the new campaign is being carried out in coordination with the Iraqi army and the US-led coalition.
“This campaign will target ISIS’s hideouts and hotbeds,” it said, using a different acronym for the militant group.
It said operations will focus on the vast east Syria desert near the border with Iraq where Daesh has conducted a spate of attacks in recent months.
Since the loss of its last territory in Syria in March 2019, Daesh attacks have been restricted to the vast desert that stretches from the heavily populated Orontes valley in the west all the way to Iraqi border.
It regularly targets SDF forces and has vowed to seek revenge for the defeat of its so-called “caliphate”.
The SDF, with backing from its coalition allies, launched a campaign to hunt down sleeper cells after it forced Daesh militants out of their last Syrian redoubt in the desert hamlet of Baghouz in March 2019.
A raid in October by US special forces killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant group which once controlled large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria.
Last month, the United Nations accused the Daesh group and others in Syria of exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to step up violence on civilians, describing the situation as a “ticking time-bomb”.
Across the border in Iraq, Daesh has exploited a coronavirus lockdown, coalition troop withdrawals and simmering political disputes to ramp up attacks.
Iraq declared Daesh defeated in late 2017 but sleeper cells have survived in remote northern and western areas, where security gaps mean the group wages occasional attacks.
They have spiked since early April as militants plant explosives, shoot up police patrols and launch mortar and rocket fire at villages.