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UN tries to salvage Libya talks after government announces pullout

February 19, 2020 at 6:05 pm

Former UN Special Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame in Rome, Italy on 8 August 2017 [Riccardo de Luca/Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations sought to salvage talks over a ceasefire for Libya on Wednesday, after the government based in Tripoli announced overnight that it was pulling out after a single day, to protest against the shelling of the port in the capital, reported Reuters.

Talks began on Tuesday in Geneva between the internationally recognised Tripoli government and its main rivals, the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) which has been trying to take the capital.

Late on Tuesday, the government said it would suspend its participation after the LNA shelled Tripoli port.

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame was trying to convince the Tripoli delegation to stay in Geneva and resume indirect talks, a source said. Another source confirmed in more general terms that Salame was working to keep the talks from collapsing.

“Salame is trying to fix this,” said one of the sources, adding that the government’s reaction was being seen as a “protest” and not necessarily a full withdrawal from talks.

There was no immediate comment from the Tripoli government.

Libya: Haftar’s forces strike Tripoli port in new escalation

Nearly nine years after rebel fighters backed by NATO air strikes overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya still has no central authority. The streets are controlled by armed groups, with rival governments based in Tripoli and the east.

Since the LNA marched on Tripoli nearly a year ago, fighting has displaced 150,000 people. Both sides have support from an array of foreign governments, with Turkey supporting the Tripoli government and countries including Russia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates helping the easterners.

The Geneva meetings have so far been held in different rooms, with Salame shuttling between the parties.

The LNA initially said its strikes on Tuesday had targeted Turkish vessel bringing weapons. It later said it had hit an arms depot.

The port is the main entry gate for wheat, fuel and other imports for Tripoli and has also been used by Turkey to send military trucks and other equipment to its government allies.

Read: Libya’s rival factions dig in for long conflict