German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made an unannounced visit to Tripoli on Monday, saying that the world must not be deceived by the “deceptive calm” in Libya at the moment and find a way to end the conflict.
Maas said in a statement upon arrival in the North African country that he was meeting with officials in the UN-recognized administration in the capital to “talk about ways out of this very dangerous situation” where both sides in the bloody civil war are being armed by international allies.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
Military commander Khalifa Hifter and his self-styled army launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture Tripoli. But his campaign collapsed in June when the Tripoli-allied militias, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of Tripoli and other western towns.
Hifter is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Turkey, a bitter rival of Egypt and the UAE in a broader regional struggle over political Islam, is the main patron of the Tripoli forces, which are also backed by the wealthy Gulf state of Qatar.
Germany has been trying to act as an intermediary, and in January held a summit in Berlin where participants from both sides agreed to respect an arms embargo and push Libya's warring parties to reach a full cease-fire, but the agreement has been repeatedly violated.
Later Monday, Maas was to travel to Abu Dhabi to meet with his counterpart there to urge him to use the UAE's influence with Hifter “in line with the Berlin summit.”
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“Only those who take part in a political process will be part of Libya's future,” Maas said.
As Maas visited Tripoli, the defense ministers of Turkey and Qatar were also in Libya but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the German foreign minister met with them, and the Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a query.