Foreign Minister Maas for Peace-Talks in Libya

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas travels to Libya as pressure builds on the peace efforts in the oil-rich country.

Maas in Libya
dpa

Berlin (dpa) - Germany's top diplomat arrived in Libya on Thursday hoping to meet the influential General Khalifa Haftar as part of efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the country.

It is essential that both sides of the Libyan civil war take part in a peace process organized under the auspices of the United Nations, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said before departing for his previously unannounced trip to Benghazi in northern Libya.

The pressure is on Germany ahead of an international conference in Berlin this Sunday to bring strongman Haftar and his rival, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, to the table.

Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi.

The oil-rich country has two competing administrations: the weak UN-backed government of al-Serraj in Tripoli and the other, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, allied with Haftar.

On Wednesday, a German government spokeswoman said it remained unclear whether the two would attend on Sunday.

Talks between Haftar and al-Serraj earlier in the week in Moscow ended in disappointment, with a ceasefire deal left unsigned.

Italy and France have also tried to bring the warring parties together, without lasting success.

French President Emmanuel Macron will attend the Libyan peace conference in Berlin, a source in the Elysee Palace said.

France's relations with al-Serraj's Government of National Accord (GNA) have declined over the past year, after Paris backed an offensive by Haftar in southern Libya. France denies, however, GNA allegations that it supported the offensive on Tripoli launched by Haftar in April.

Maas called the Berlin conference "the best chance" for launching peace talks.

He is representing his fellow EU foreign ministers in Thursday's planned meeting with Haftar, the German Foreign Office said.

"Our message is clear: This conflict cannot be won be anyone militarily," Maas said.

"I hope that the parties use this opportunity to take the future of Libya back into Libyan hands," he added.

European countries are eager to de-escalate the Libya conflict since chaos in the North African country has made it a major transit point for migrants on their way to Europe via the Mediterranean.