UN chief calls again for an immediate cease-fire in Libya

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called again for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and a return to talks by all the warring parties.

The UN chief warned in a statement from his deputy spokesman that “any foreign support to the warring parties will only deepen the ongoing conflict and further complicate efforts to reach a peaceful and comprehensive political solution”.

Guterres’ comments followed on Thursday’s authorisation by Turkey’s parliament to deploy troops to Libya to support the UN-backed government in Tripoli that is battling forces loyal to a rival government seeking to capture the capital.

Ankara said the deployment is vital for Turkey to safeguard its interests in Libya and in the eastern Mediterranean, where it finds itself increasingly isolated as Greece, Cyprus and Egypt have established exclusive economic zones paving the way for oil and gas exploration.

Libya has been in turmoil since a civil war in 2011 toppled Muammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided, with a weak UN-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Hifter, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.

Hifter launched a surprise military offensive last April aimed at capturing Tripoli despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections.

The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivalling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed Gadhafi.

While Hifter’s LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Turkey, Italy and Qatar.

The Turkish Parliament’s decision to deploy troops was condemned by neighbouring Egypt, which backs Hifter, in what its Foreign Ministry called “the strongest language”. The leaders of Greece and Cyprus also denounced the move as a “dangerous threat to regional stability” and a “dangerous escalation” of the Libyan conflict that violates UN resolutions and undermines international peace efforts.