The internationally-recognised government suspended its participation in Geneva talks with warlord Haftar's militia after the Tripoli port came under attack by the latter's militants.

Military vehicles of Libya's internationally-recognised government head out to the front line from Misrata, Libya on February 3, 2020.
Military vehicles of Libya's internationally-recognised government head out to the front line from Misrata, Libya on February 3, 2020. (Reuters)

The UN sought to salvage talks over a ceasefire for Libya on Wednesday after the internationally-recognised government announced overnight that it was pulling out after a single day to protest against the shelling of the port in the capital.

Talks began on Tuesday in Geneva between Libya's government and its main rival, a militia led by warlord Khalifa Haftar which calls itself the Libya National Army (LNA) and has been trying to seize the capital.

Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj said on Wednesday talks of resuming peace negotiations has been overtaken by events on the ground.

"There must first be a strong signal from all international players who are trying to talk to us," he told reporters at Tripoli's seaport, which got shelled by Haftar militants on Tuesday. 

UN condemns attack

The UN condemned Haftar’s attack on Libya’s Tripoli port.

A source said that UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame was trying to convince the Tripoli delegation to stay in Geneva and resume indirect talks. 

Another source confirmed in more general terms that Salame was working to keep the talks from collapsing.

"Salame is trying to fix this," said one of the sources, adding that the government's reaction was being seen as a "protest" and not necessarily a full withdrawal from talks.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in oil-rich Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt, the UAE, France and Russia, and the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, which is backed by Turkey, Italy and Qatar and enjoys the UN and international recognition.

Since the LNA marched on Tripoli nearly a year ago, fighting has displaced 150,000 people.

The Geneva meetings have so far been held in different rooms, with Salame shuttling between the parties.

The LNA initially said its strikes on Tuesday had targeted a Turkish vessel. It later said it had hit an arms depot.

But Mustafa al Mujie, a spokesman for Operation Volcano of Anger, a military campaign launched by government forces, said the Haftar attack left a number of commercial vessels and goods in flames, denying reports that claimed a Turkish ship or ammunition warehouse was targeted.

Turkish officials later in the day confirmed that Haftar's militants had fired on a Turkish ship near the docks. 

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters on Tuesday that the attack "missed its target" and Turkish forces fired back.

Turkish President hails Libya's decision

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the decision of the UN-supported government to withdraw from talks with rivals. 

The US, however, called for the talks to be resumed “quickly."

Erdogan also criticised the European Union’s decision to launch a maritime effort focused on enforcing the UN arms embargo around Libya, accusing European nations that agreed to the operation of “interfering in the region.”

"The EU has no authority to take any decision regarding [Libya's] land and sea," Erdogan said.

EU foreign ministers agreed earlier this week to end Operation Sophia, the bloc’s naval mission in the Mediterranean Sea, and launch a maritime effort focused more on implementing the UN arms embargo around Libya.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies