UN says Libya's warring sides engaged in ‘productive’ talks - InfoNews

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UN says Libya's warring sides engaged in ‘productive’ talks

June 10, 2020 - 12:46 PM

CAIRO - The United Nations on Wednesday said Libya’s warring sides were “fully” engaged in military talks aimed at ending the fighting in the country’s west, calling the virtual meetings “productive.”

The U.N. support mission in Libya, UNSMIL, said it convened a meeting with a delegation from military commander Khalifa Hifter’s eastern-based forces on June 3, and another meeting Tuesday with a delegation from the U.N.-supported government.

“Both meetings — which were conducted virtually — were productive and enabled UNSMIL to discuss with the delegations the latest developments on the ground,” the mission said.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Eastern-based forces under Hifter launched an offensive trying to take the capital of the western government, Tripoli, in April 2019. The chaos in the oil-rich country has steadily worsened as foreign backers increasingly intervened, despite pledges to the contrary, at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.

The Tripoli-based forces, backed by Turkey, gained the upper hand last week after retaking the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city and a string of key towns near Tripoli. That forced Hifter’s fighters to withdraw — defeats that commanders painted as a tactical measure to give the U.N.-backed peace process a chance.

UNSMIL said it received both sides’ comments on a draft cease-fire deal presented by the mission Feb. 23. It did not elaborate on details of the draft, or the warring sides’ comments.

Airstrikes and grad rockets killed at least 19 civilians, including three women and five children, between June 5-8 outside the strategic coastal city of Sirte. The city is a former stronghold of the Islamic State group that Hifter’s forces captured in January, the mission said. At least 12 others were wounded, it said.

Libyan fighters allied with the Tripoli-based government earlier this week pressed their advance toward Sirte, the gateway to oil facilities in Libya’s south. But they faced intensive airstrikes from Hifter’s Libyan Arab Armed Forces, that forced them to retreat.

The mission said it was “particularly concerned” by reports of escalation and mobilization around Sirte.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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