Libya's Haftar and Russian defence chief agree political settlement is 'only option'
Libya's UN-backed government halted participation in Geneva talks on Tuesday
Libya's Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and Russia’s defence minister have agreed a political settlement is the only option for the North African country.
On Wednesday Mr Haftar met Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss ceasefire options.
It comes a day after Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) halted its participation in UN talks aimed at brokering a lasting ceasefire in the war-torn country where a fragile truce has been repeatedly violated.
Russia's Defence Ministry said the two men agreed there was no alternative way to resolve Libya’s crisis other than by a political one.
It said Mr Haftar and Mr Shoigu "once more noted the lack of an alternative to political ways of resolving the intra-Libyan crisis" and their commitment to Libya's "independence, unity and territorial integrity".
It added that they discussed the situation in Libya and "the important role of talks" held in Moscow in January as well as "the need to fulfil" terms agreed at an international summit in Berlin later last month.
The statement did not say where the meeting took place.
Mr Lavrov has urged outside players to push both sides in Libya to sit down for peace talks.
"All those who in one way or another influence political or other forces in Libya should stimulate them to sit down for talks. The first steps in this direction were taken but now additional difficulties are coming up again," he said.
On Tuesday, Libya's capital Tripoli was again subjected to a barrage of rocket fire.
It has been the target of a months-long operation by Mr Haftar to oust the GNA.
On Tuesday the GNA said: "We are announcing the suspension of our participation in the military talks taking place in Geneva until firm positions are adopted against the aggressor (Field Marshal Haftar) and his violations of the truce.
"Without a lasting ceasefire... negotiations make no sense. There can be no peace under the bombing," it added.
The port strikes were the latest violation of a tenuous truce that came into effect in January, brokered by Russia, which supports Mr Haftar, and Turkey, which supports the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.
In a statement the GNA added: "It is clear the objective of the systematic bombardments of the residential areas, the airport and the port, in addition to the total blockage of the oil installations, is to provoke crises for the citizens in all the aspects of their life."
It said that Mr Haftar's forces were "trying in vain" to destabilise the state, having failed to seize power.
UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame had earlier on Tuesday launched a second round of talks in Geneva, with five senior officers from the GNA and five appointed by Mr Haftar's forces taking part.
A first round of talks ended with no result earlier this month but Mr Salame said there was "more hope" this time, mainly because of the approval of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a "lasting ceasefire".
The UN Support Mission in Libya said in a statement on Wednesday that it hoped the talks could resume.
"The Mission calls for an end to the escalation and provocative actions, especially expansion of the conflict area, and urges all parties to resort to dialogue as the only means to end the crisis," it said.
Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Muamar Qaddafi, with rival armed factions still vying for power.
In the latest outbreak of fighting, Mr Haftar launched his offensive on Tripoli last April but after rapid advances his forces stalled on the edges of the capital.
The fighting has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced some 140,000 according to the United Nations.
Further talks were planned to start in Geneva on February 26 to find a political solution.
World leaders had agreed at a Berlin summit last month to end all meddling in the conflict and stop the flow of weapons, but little has changed on the ground since then.
EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to launch a naval mission to enforce an arms embargo, which the UN said was being violated by air, land and sea.
The naval operation will be authorised to intervene to stop weapons shipments into the North African state.
On Wednesday though, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the move.
"I want to specifically mention that the EU does not have the right to make any decision concerning Libya," he said.
"The EU is trying to take charge of the situation and interfere."
He added that Turkey would continue supporting the Tripoli-based government to "establish dominance" over the whole of the country.
Updated: February 19, 2020 05:58 PM