Libya ceasefire talks going in 'right direction', U.N. envoy says

GENEVA (Reuters) – Ceasefire talks between Libya’s warring sides are going in the “right direction” while hitting hurdles over violations of an arms embargo and a truce declared last month, the United Nations envoy for Libya said on Friday.

Ghassan Salame speaking to Reuters during a break in military talks in Geneva, which resumed on Thursday after the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli pulled out of negotiations as renegade forces shelled the capital’s port.

“It is not that one side is back, it is one side came back with the intention to move forward, which is different,” Salame said. “Are we going into the right direction? My conviction is that we are.”

Turkey has backed the Government of National Accord in Tripoli to fend off the Libyan National Army, based in the country’s east and backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

LNA commander Khalifa Haftar told Russia’s RIA news agency earlier that a ceasefire would only be possible if Turkish and Syrian fighters stopped supporting the GNA.

Salame, asked about Haftar’s preconditions and whether there the other side was prepared to accept such demands, said:

“I think that these demands are reasonable and I think they are viewed as reasonable by the other party as well. The whole question is when, where, and what is the quid pro quo? That’s what the negotiation is about.”

Salame said he expected political-level talks to convene in Geneva next Wednesday but he was already working on confidence-building measures.

“In parallel we are trying to make air travel a bit safer in Libya especially from Mitiga as well as Misrata. We are also trying to reopen the port to be a safe harbor. And we are also trying…to help in an exchange of prisoners between the parties.”

Salame said he was still conducting shuttle talks with separate sessions with the GNA and LNA military officials, rather than trying to bring them together.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who will be in Geneva on Monday, is following the negotiations closely, he said. Libya’s U.N.-supported Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj will also be in the city on Monday.

“We are certainly firm in our determination to launch the political process the way we did with the economic and the military (talks),” Salame said.

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