Germany hosts conference to promote progress in Libya | World news
By GEIR MOULSON and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) – Germany and the United Nations are bringing together representatives of Libya on Wednesday with powers with interests in the country, which aims to make progress towards securing elections in the North African country and withdrawing the foreign fighters.
The meeting at the Foreign Office in Berlin, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken among the attendees, follows a January 2020 conference where leaders agreed to abide by an arms embargo and push warring parties to the country to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire. Germany tried to mediate.
Countries that have been involved in the process include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as Italy, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Ahead of the conference, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that a lot has been accomplished over the past two years. An October ceasefire agreement that included a demand that all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days led to an agreement on elections due on December 24 and a transitional government who took office in February.
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But “there are still many challenges ahead,” said Maas, who met with the transitional Libyan prime minister and the foreign minister on Tuesday evening. “For the further stabilization of the country, it is crucial that the elections go as planned and that the foreign fighters and mercenaries actually leave Libya. “
He added that Wednesday’s conference launches a new phase “in which we no longer just talk about Libya, but in which we now talk with Libyan men and women about the future of their country”.
The US special envoy for Libya, Richard Norland, welcomed the participation of the Libyans in the talks.
“The goal of the United States is a sovereign, stable and unified Libya, free from foreign interference and a state capable of combating terrorism within its borders. We firmly oppose any military escalation and any foreign military intervention, which only deepens and prolong the conflict, ”he told reporters in Washington ahead of the conference.
Norland said it was important to start placing all armed groups in the country under a joint military command.
“When the foreign forces leave, they will have to be replaced by a united and viable Libyan national military and police structure,” he said.
Meanwhile, aid group Doctors Without Borders said this week it was suspending activities at two detention centers in Tripoli after “repeated incidents of violence against refugees and migrants held there.” He said staff saw guards beating detainees in one center and received reports of people being shot in another.
Libya has been a key transit country for migrants from Africa trying to reach Europe, particularly after order collapsed when a NATO-backed uprising toppled and then killed the dictator de Long Muammar Gaddafi dates back to 2011. The oil-rich country has long been divided between a backed government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east of the country, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
In April 2019, Commander Khalifa Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive in an attempt to capture Tripoli. Hifter’s 14-month campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up military support for the UN-backed government with hundreds of soldiers and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
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