Libya strongman Haftar in Athens for talks ahead of Berlin peace conference

Gen. Haftar
ATHENS: Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar has flown to Athens for talks ahead of a peace conference in Berlin, a source with knowledge of the issue said Thursday.

“Haftar is coming to Athens,” the source told AFP as Greek media reported he would be meeting with the Greek prime minister and foreign minister on Friday.

Meanwhile, Egypt, Italy and Greece say Turkey PM Erdogan’s announcement that he is sending troops to Libya violates international resolutions.

The Berlin conference comes as world powers step up efforts for a lasting cease-fire, nine months since an assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces sparked fighting that has killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters, displacing thousands.

An interim truce which came into force Sunday has mostly held, despite accusations of violations from Haftar’s forces and the rival Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

GNA chief Sarraj told officials in Tripoli that “we are going to be present in Berlin” for the talks, according to a statement Thursday.

Haftar had walked away from cease-fire talks in Moscow on Monday, but German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited his eastern Libya stronghold of Benghazi on Thursday to persuade him to join the conference.

Haftar “wants to contribute to the success of the Libyan conference in Berlin and is in principle ready to participate in it,” Maas tweeted, calling it “the best chance in a long time” for peace.

Haftar “has agreed to abide by the ongoing cease-fire,” he added.

But Sarraj, whose GNA did sign the Moscow deal, cast doubt over Haftar’s intentions.

Haftar “has chosen not to sign the agreement and asked for a delay,” he said, calling that “an attempt to undermine the Berlin conference before it starts.”

The oil-rich North African state has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and multiple foreign powers have become embroiled.

The GNA is backed by Turkey and Qatar, while Haftar, who backs a rival administration in Libya’s east, has the support of neighboring Egypt as well as Russia and the United Arab Emirates. AFP

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