UN special representative for Libya Ghassan Salame says the country's warring sides are working to turn a provisional truce into a formal accord, a prospect that appears to face steep obstacles.

UN envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, holds a news briefing after a meeting of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, February 6, 2020.
UN envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, holds a news briefing after a meeting of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, February 6, 2020. (Reuters)

The UN's Libya envoy on Thursday reported "progress" in talks between military representatives of the country's warring parties on coming up with a lasting ceasefire that could include a UN monitoring role.

"Progress has been made on many important issues," Ghassan Salame told reporters in Geneva, adding that there were still "two or three points of divergence."

"We are still working on refining our basic draft. I hope that we can have an agreement before we leave Geneva" following this week's talks, Salame said.

Five senior officers appointed by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and five appointed by the illegal militia of warlord Khalifa Haftar are taking part in the military commission talks.

Salame said the two sides were not meeting together but engaged in "shuttle diplomacy" with separate meetings.

"If it is easier to have an agreement through shuttle diplomacy, we do not have a problem with that," he said.

"I am not here for the picture of the two sides shaking hands," he added.

Ceasefire monitoring 

Asked about monitoring, he added, "I can tell you that the joint military commission would be involved in the monitoring of the ceasefire under the auspices of the United Nations in Libya. That is acceptable to both sides."

Salame also said that a separate commission dealing with economic affairs between the two sides would meet in Cairo on Sunday and he was hopeful that political dialogue between them could begin in Geneva on February 26.

At a summit in the German capital Berlin last month, world leaders committed to ending all foreign interference in the oil-rich country and to uphold a weapons embargo to help end the long-running civil war.

But Salame said the embargo was being breached with weapons, ammunition and foreign fighters arriving to support both sides in the conflict.

Regional rivalries

The latest round of fighting in oil-rich Libya erupted last April when the eastern-based militia under the command of warlord Haftar laid siege to Tripoli in a bid to wrest power from the UN-backed government led by Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj.

Sarraj and Haftar both sent delegations of military officials to represent them at the Geneva talks.

The ceasefire talks come amid intensified diplomacy among world powers seeking to end the conflict that has ravaged Libya for nine years.

Haftar's militia, which controls much of Libya's east and south, relies on military assistance from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia.

On the other side, Turkey, Italy, and Qatar prop up the embattled Tripoli-based UN-backed government.

World powers have deplored the reality on the ground and pledged to uphold a widely flouted UN arms embargo at a peace summit last month in Berlin. But continued violations of the ban have dimmed hopes that international players in Libya can resolve the crisis.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies