Libya War: Warring leaders eye Berlin truce talks

Tripoli (AFP) - Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar agreed "in principle" Thursday to attend a peace conference in Berlin after the head of Tripoli's UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj signalled he would be present.

The talks come as world powers step up efforts for a lasting ceasefire, 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 ceasefire 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 ceasefire", 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 Moamer Kadhafi, 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 neighbouring Egypt as well as Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

- External interference -

The United Nations said the Berlin talks aim to end foreign interference and division over Libya. Read more

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