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Russia warns against escalation of tensions in Libya

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A handout photograph taken and released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on December 30, 2020 shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaking at a joint press conference with the Libyan foreign minister (unseen) in Moscow, Russia. (Via AFP)

Russia has warned against the resumption of hostilities in conflict-ridden Libya, after rebel commander Khalifa Haftar called for the continuation of fighting, which has been halted thanks to a United Nations (UN)-brokered truce.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued the warning at a news conference in the capital, Moscow, following a meeting with his Libyan counterpart, Mohamed Siala, on Wednesday.

Lavrov promised to provide "maximum support" for the ongoing peace efforts in Libya and said that the warring side in Libya had to be encouraged to engage in dialog.

The top Russian diplomat said the current ceasefire in the North African country was secured following cooperation between Russia and Turkey.

Libya's rival sides agreed to the permanent ceasefire on October 23, bringing an end to months of deadly fighting in the North African country.

Libya, which sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa, descended into chaos last year after rebel forces and militia groups under Haftar's command moved toward Tripoli to seize the capital city, although they were later repelled by Libyan government forces.

Over the past year, fighting elsewhere in the country escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into Libya.

Haftar's rebels are being backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and France in their attempts to unseat the internationally-recognized government of Libya, which is supported by Turkey.

In late November, the representatives of the warring sides in Libya concluded their latest round of peace talks in Morocco and agreed to end divisions. The two sides indicated "commitment to holding parliamentary elections and ending the transitional phase as soon as possible."

UN seeks monitors for Libya's fragile ceasefire

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has proposed that international monitors observe the implementation of Libya's ceasefire amid hopes that foreign fighters would soon leave the country.

In a letter to Security Council members, the secretary-general called for the establishment of a monitoring group that would include civilians and retired soldiers from regional groups such as the African Union, the European Union, and the Arab League.

"I call on all national, regional, and international stakeholders to respect the provisions of the ceasefire agreement and ensure its implementation without delay," Guterres said in the letter dated Tuesday.

"I encourage member states and regional organizations to support the operationalization of the ceasefire mechanism, including by providing individual monitors under the auspices of the United Nations."

Under the UN-brokered ceasefire, all foreign forces are to leave Libya within three months.

The UN chief also urged all countries on Tuesday to honor the UN arms embargo on Libya, which has been brazenly violated over the past months.

Libya initially plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.


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