Libya cease-fire talks in ‘right direction,’ says UN envoy

Forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar patrol in Sebha city in southern Libya. (AFP)
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Updated 22 February 2020

Libya cease-fire talks in ‘right direction,’ says UN envoy

  • The country has been mired in chaos since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the killing of longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Haftar launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April

GENEVA / MOSCOW: Cease-fire talks between Libya’s warring sides are going in the “right direction” while hitting hurdles over violations of an arms embargo and a truce declared last month, the UN envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame told Reuters on Friday.
Salame, in an interview during a break in military talks in Geneva, said that he expected political-level talks to convene in the Swiss city on Feb. 26 but was already working on confidence-building measures.
“In parallel we are trying to make air travel a bit safer in Libya especially from Mitiga as well as Misrata. We are also trying to reopen the port to be a safe harbor,” Salame said. “And we are also trying ... to help in an exchange of prisoners between the parties.”
A day earlier, Salame had said that his mission to secure a lasting cease-fire and eventually a political solution was “very difficult” but “possible.”

Haftar warns Turkey
Libya’s eastern commander, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, vowed on Friday to fight Turkish forces if peace talks in Geneva failed, in comments to a Russian news agency.
The eastern military commander, who is backed by Russia, gave the interview to RIA Novosti after meeting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday.
“If talks in Geneva do not achieve peace and security for our country, if mercenaries do not return to where they were brought from, the armed forces will fulfill their constitutional obligations ... to defend against the Turkish Ottoman invaders,” Haftar said in translated comments.
Talks between the warring parties in Geneva ended earlier this month with no result.

If talks in Geneva do not achieve peace and security for our country, the armed forces will fulfill their constitutional obligations ... to defend against the Turkish Ottoman invaders.

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s eastern commander

A second round began Tuesday, but broke down after rocket fire hit a port in Tripoli. Talks then resumed Thursday.
The country has been mired in chaos since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the killing of longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Haftar launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April.
Turkey supports the UN-recognized government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, with whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November signed a deal on security, maritime and military cooperation.
“As we’ve said, our patience is at the limit due to the regular violations of the cease-fire by groups of fighters hired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Libyan Prime Minister Sarraj,” Haftar said, accusing them of failing to fulfill promises they made in Berlin.
At a Berlin summit last month, countries including Russia, Turkey, France and Egypt agreed to end foreign interference in Libya and respect a UN arms embargo.
Haftar added that his forces “are assessing the situation in Tripoli, are in contact with the international sides and are ready for all options.”
Moscow and Ankara together brokered a tenuous truce in Libya last month. The two sides agreed to end fighting, but the cease-fire has been violated.
Haftar said Friday that his conditions for a cease-fire were “withdrawal of Syria and Turkish mercenaries, Turkey stopping supplies of weapons to Tripoli and the liquidation of terrorist groups.”


Syria Kurdish-led force launches new anti-Daesh campaign

Updated 05 June 2020

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.