Libya’s unity government has announced it is halting its participation in U.N. talks aimed at brokering a lasting ceasefire in the war-torn country where a fragile truce has been repeatedly violated.
The pull-out came after a barrage of rocket fire hit a port in the capital Tripoli – the target of a months-long operation by eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar to oust the Government of National Accord (GNA).
“We are announcing the suspension of our participation in the military talks taking place in Geneva until firm positions are adopted against the aggressor (Haftar) and his violations” of the truce, the GNA said late Tuesday.
“Without a lasting ceasefire … negotiations make no sense. There can be no peace under the bombing,” it added.
The port strikes were the latest violation of a tenuous truce that came into effect in January, brokered by Russia, which supports Haftar, and Turkey, which supports the U.N.-recognised government in Tripoli.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
“It is clear the objective of the systematic bombardments of the residential areas, the airport, and the port, in addition to the total blockage of the oil installations, is to provoke crises for the citizens in all the aspects of their life,” the GNA statement said.
It added that Haftar’s forces were “trying in vain” to destabilize the state, having failed to seize power.
U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame had earlier on Tuesday launched a second round of talks in Geneva, with five senior officers from the GNA and five appointed by Haftar’s forces taking part.
A first round of talks ended with no result earlier this month but Salame said there was “more hope” this time, mainly because of the approval of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a “lasting ceasefire”.
The U.N. Support Mission in Libya said in a statement on Wednesday that it hoped the talks could resume.
“The Mission calls for an end to the escalation and provocative actions, especially expansion of the conflict area, and urges all parties to resort to dialogue as the only means to end the crisis,” it said.
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Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival armed factions still vying for power.
In the latest outbreak of fighting, Haftar launched his offensive on Tripoli last April but after rapid advances his forces stalled on the edges of the capital.
The fighting has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced some 140,000 according to the United Nations.
Further talks were planned to start in Geneva on February 26 on finding a political solution.
Haftar on Wednesday met Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at an undisclosed location for talks on resolving the conflict, the Russian defense ministry said.
They discussed “the important role” of Moscow talks in January and “the need to fulfill” terms agreed at talks in Berlin last month, it said.
World leaders had agreed at the meeting to end all meddling in the conflict and stop the flow of weapons, but little has changed on the ground since then.
E.U. foreign ministers agreed on Monday to launch a naval mission to enforce an arms embargo, which the U.N. said was being violated by air, land, and sea.
The naval operation will be authorized to intervene to stop weapons shipments into the North African state.
Countries including Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt support Haftar, while the U.N.-recognised government led by Fayez al-Sarraj is backed by Turkey and Qatar.