UN says 'encouraged' by Libyan calls to resume peace talks

SAMY MAGDY
FILE - on this Nov. 19, 2019, file photo, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks at the "G20 Investment Summit - German Business and the CwA Countries 2019" on the sidelines of a Compact with Africa (CwA) in Berlin, Germany. Egypt’s president has announced an initiative to end the civil war in neighboring Libya. The move has been accepted by the commander of the eastern Libyan forces, which have suffered heavy defeats in recent weeks. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi declared his initiative in a ceremony in Cairo Saturday, June 6, 2020. (John MacDougall/Pool via AP, File)

CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations on Sunday said it was encouraged by calls to resume talks on ending the conflict in Libya, a day after Egypt announced a unilateral peace initiative supported by the eastern Libyan camp.

The U.N. support mission in Libya said the fighting over the capital, Tripoli, for more than a year “has proven, beyond any doubt, that any war among Libyans is a losing war.”

The statement urged Libyan parties to “engage swiftly and constructively” in the U.N.-brokered military talks aimed at reaching a lasting cease-fire agreement, “accompanied by firm implementation of and respect for the recently renewed U.N. Arms Embargo on Libya.”

The U.N. said more than 16,000 Libyans were displaced in recent days by the latest bout of fighting in the capital and the town of Tarhouna, which lies 72 kilometers (45 miles) southeast.

Oil-rich Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when a civil war toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.

Last year, the commander of the eastern Libyan forces, Khalifa Hifter, launched a campaign to capture Tripoli from the U.N.-supported but weak government there. After months of stalemate, the clashes intensified as foreign backers of both sides increasingly intervened.

Egypt’s initiative to end the fighting came on the heels of major losses by Hifter's forces in western Libya in recent weeks.

Libyan Crimes Watch, a U.K.-based rights group monitoring the Libyan war, said Turkish drone strikes by Tripoli-allied forces hit vehicles carrying fleeing residents of the town of Tarhouna on Saturday, killing at least 10 civilians including two children and wounding another.

A spokesman for the Tripoli-allied forces did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Saturday announced his initiative to end the civil war, saying the road map includes a cease-fire starting Monday and is meant to pave the way for elections in the North African country.

Hifter is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. The Tripoli-allied militias are aided by Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte spoke by phone Sunday with the Egyptian president. Conte’s office said the conversation centered on “regional stability, with particular attention to the need for a rapid cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table in Libya.”

There was no comment on the Egyptian initiative from either the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli or its foreign backers.

Nevertheless, the U.N. support mission in Libya said it was encouraged by the recent calls to resume talks.

“The Mission, as ever, stands ready to convene a fully inclusive Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process,” it said.

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Associated Press writer Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.