U.N. says conducting Libya talks as Erdoğan, Putin seek common ground

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said that delegations from the Tripoli-based Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and its rival general Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) are fully engaged in a third round of talks aimed at ending the fighting in Libya, Anadolu news agency said. 

In a statement, UNSMIL said they held a meeting with Haftar on June 3 as well as one with the Libyan government delegation on Tuesday.  

“Both meetings -which were conducted virtually - were productive and enabled UNSMIL to discuss with the delegations the latest developments on the ground and to receive their comments on the draft ceasefire agreement as presented by the mission to the parties on February 23, 2020,” UNSMIL said on Wednesday.

“While UNSMIL commends the seriousness and the commitment of both parties in the JMC dialogue track, it calls on them (Haftar and the GNA) to de-escalate to avoid further civilian casualties and new waves of displacement,” UNSMIL said.

UNSMIL said that between June 5 and June 8, airstrikes and rockets killed at least 19 civilians, including three women and five children, in attacks in at least three locations outside the strategic coastal city of Sirte.

The meetings are under the U.N.-led auspices of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) - that is comprised of ten military leaders, with five representing the LNA and five from the GNA - that started at the end of February, with two rounds of negotiations taking place before they stopped in March.

The U.N. along with several countries are putting intense pressure on the two sides to stop the fighting in Libya at a time when Haftar's forces - backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, among others - are suffering heavy losses against the Turkish-backed GNA. 

Turkey stepped up its military support for the Tripoli-based GNA in December 2019, sending drones and other military hardware, along with thousands of Syrian mercenaries, many of whom have links to Islamist militant groups. 

This has helped the GNA to take back almost all the territories Haftar’s forces had previously taken in his bid to capture Tripoli, which he launched in April 2019.

The capture of al-Watiya air base, on May 18, has been swiftly followed by further gains for the GNA, which last week captured Tripoli airport and the city of Tarhuna, which had been the LNA’s last stronghold in western Libya.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed the situation in Libya with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Wednesday, Anadolu said.

Anadolu reported that Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also spoke over the phone on Wednesday to discuss the latest situation in Libya, as well as security issues. 

Anadolu did not provide any details of agreements on Libya made during either phone call.