Libya Players Agree to Respect Arms Embargo, Push Cease-Fire

January 19, 2020 Updated: January 20, 2020

BERLIN—Countries with interests in Libya’s long-running civil war agreed Sunday to respect a much-violated arms embargo, hold off on military support to the warring parties and push them to reach a full cease-fire, German and U.N. leaders said.

The agreement came after about four hours of talks at the chancellery in Berlin. German Chancellor Anglea Merkel hosted leaders of 11 countries involved in the conflict, with Libya’s two main rival leaders also in the German capital but not at the main conference table.

Organizers knew that “we had to succeed in getting all the parties that connected in any way with the Libya conflict to speak with one voice…because then the parties inside Libya will also understand that there is only a non-military way to a solution,” Merkel said. “We achieved this result here.”

Among those who attended were Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The participants agreed that “we want to respect the arms embargo, and that the arms embargo will be more strongly controlled than was the case in the past,” she said. She added that the results of the conference should be endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

Libya’s two main rival leaders, Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and Gen. Khalifa Hifter, said the two men named members of a military committee that will represent them at talks on a more permanent cease-fire, Merkel.

U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said that the committee would be convened “in Geneva in the coming days.”

Merkel said the summit participants agreed that they will give no further support to the warring parties in Libya ahead of the committee’s meeting and “cease operations as long as the cease-fire holds.”

Guterres said the Berlin conference had succeeded in fending off “the risk of a true regional escalation.”

“That risk was averted in Berlin—provided, of course, that it is possible to maintain the truce and then to move into a cease-fire,” he said.

Guterres underlined the urgency of that next step, saying all the participants committed to “put pressure on the parties for a full cease-fire to be reached.”

“We cannot monitor something that doesn’t exist,” Guterres said. “We have a truce.”

Merkel added that the participants would continue to hold regular further meetings to ensure the process continues “so the people in Libya get their right to a peaceful life.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “we know that today’s signatures aren’t enough.”

He said countries that weren’t invited Sunday will be given the opportunity to participate in future meetings of the four committees dealing with various aspects of the crisis, among them military issues and the economy.

“We know that the work has only just started,” Maas said and praised the “spirit of cooperation” seen in Berlin.

Libya has sunk further into chaos since the 2011 ouster and killing of its longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. It is now divided into rival administrations, each backed by different nations: the U.N.-recognized government based in Tripoli, headed by Sarraj, and one based in the country’s east, supported by Hifter’s forces.

Hifter’s forces have been on the offensive since April, laying siege to Tripoli in an effort to capture the capital. Hifter’s forces are backed by Egypt, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates, while the Tripoli government has turned to Turkey for troops and weapons.

On Sunday, Libya’s National Oil Corporation said that guards under the command of Hifter’s forces shut down two key oil fields in the country’s southwestern desert, following the earlier closure of all eastern export terminals. Only offshore fields and one smaller facility remain operational, the corporation said.

By Frank Jordans and Geir Moulson