UN envoy hopes Libya talks will stem inflow of foreign arms

UN special representative for Libya said he hopes cease-fire talks that began Tuesday between the country’s warring sides will result in a deal that will convince foreign powers to stop pouring in weapons.

Ghassan Salame, head of the United Nations support mission in Libya, lamented that an arms embargo has been “incessantly” violated since the fall of longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. He said an international conference in Berlin last month sought to renew respect for it.

Cease-fire talks in Geneva focus on the military aspect of diplomatic efforts aimed at easing tensions in a country that has been roiled by instability for most of the last decade.

Salame said an “economic track” to the talks began in Tunis, Tunisia last month and is to resume in Cairo on Sunday. A political track is set to get under way in about two weeks, he said.

The weak UN-recognized administration holds the capital Tripoli and parts of the country’s west. Led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, it’s backed by Turkey and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy.

On the other side of the civil war is General Khalifa Haftar, based in the country’s east. His forces have been fighting to capture the capital for months and are backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as well as France and Russia.

Sarraj and Hafter have each named five members of a military committee to represent them at the Geneva talks aimed at a more permanent cease-fire, in meetings that quietly got underway Monday.

Playing down expectations, Salame said such a meeting between high-ranking officers was unprecedented: “So don’t expect from one meeting yesterday afternoon to settle all these issues.”

Speaking in Arabic through a translator, he noted a “genuine will for both parties to sit together and start negotiations.”

“We started yesterday with a long list of points on our agenda, starting on an attempt to transform the truce into a more solid one less often violated by either side – but also to transform that truce into areas of agreement on a lasting cease-fire,” he said.

Salame said talks would center on how to organize a cease-fire on the ground, what kind of monitoring could take place, and what could be done with heavy weaponry, among other things.

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