Libya Government Suspends Peace Talks After Haftar Port Attack

Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support MIssion in Libya, briefs the press at the meeting of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Commission in Geneva in February 2020.
18 February 2020

Military commander Khalifa Haftar's forces have stepped up their attack on the Libyan capital Tripoli. The UN-backed government said negotiations were meaningless without "ceasefire guarantees."

The UN-backed government in Libya has suspended peace talks in Geneva, following an attack on a strategic port in Tripoli late on Tuesday.

"We announce suspending our participation in the military talks held in Geneva until strict stances are taken towards the aggressor and its violations ," the Goverment of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement.

"The militias hit Tripoli's port which is considered a lifeline for many of Libya's cities," it added. Tripoli's port is a major gateway for food, fuel and other supplies, for the capital and beyond. "Negotiations don't mean anything without permanent ceasefire guarantees returning the displaced people and the security of the capital and the other cities," the GNA said.

The attack came as senior officers from the army and the main rebel forces were starting their second round of UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland.

LPG tanker narrowly missed in attack

Military commander Khalifa Haftar's forces, the largest of a series of militia and rebel groups in Libya, have been vying for control of the country with the internationally-recognized government based in the capital, advancing on Tripoli in recent months.

Haftar's forces said they had attacked a depot for weapons and ammuniton at the port "to weaken the combat capabilities of the mercenaries who arrived from Syria "to support Tripoli.

Turkey said that Haftar's forces had fired on a Turkish ship near the port but "missed" the target. A presidential spokesman said Turkish forces returned fire.

Turkey has sent several ships carrying arms, trucks and militias to Tripoli and the western port of Misrata, also held by the GNA, since January.

Libya's state oil company NOC said it had removed all its fuel tankers from the port area after the attack following a near miss on "a highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas tanker discharging in the port." NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said it "could have led to a humanitarian and environmental disaster."

(AP, Reuters, dpa)

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