German minister travels to Libya as pressure builds on peace efforts

Germany’s top diplomat on Thursday travelled to Libya hoping to meet the influential Khalifa Haftar, a general, as part of efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the country.

“It is essential that both sides of the Libyan civil war take part in a peace process organised under the auspices of the United Nations,’’ German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, before departing for his previously unannounced trip to Benghazi, in northern Libya.

Reports say the pressure is on Germany, ahead of an international conference in Berlin on Sunday, to bring rebel leader Haftar and his rival, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, to the table.

Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of long-time dictator, Moamer Gaddafi.

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The oil-rich country has two competing administrations: the UN-backed government of Mr al-Serraj in Tripoli and the other, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, allied with Mr Haftar.

On Wednesday, a German government spokesperson said it remained unclear whether the two would attend on Sunday.

Talks between Messrs Haftar and al-Serraj earlier in the week in Moscow ended in disappointment, with a ceasefire deal left unsigned.

Mr Maas called the Berlin conference “the best chance” for launching peace talks.

“He is representing his fellow EU foreign ministers in Thursday’s planned meeting with Haftar.

“Our message is clear: This conflict cannot be won be anyone militarily,’’ Mr Maas said.

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European countries are eager to de-escalate the Libya conflict since the chaos in the North African country made it a major transit point for migrants on their way to Europe via the Mediterranean.