UN says Libyan rival forces resume talks to save cease-fire

joint military commission representing 's UN-recognized government and renegade commander 's forces began a second round of talks in on Tuesday. Addressing a news conference, UN's special Libya envoy confirmed the development and said hopes were high for "some kind of consensus".

's warring sides resumed Tuesday U.N.-brokered talks in aimed at salvaging a fragile in the North African country, the U.N. said, even as eastern Libyan forces stepped up their attacks on the Libyan capital, hitting its port.

It appeared to be the first such attack on Tripoli's strategic port since loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar began their siege of the city almost a year ago.

Ghassan Salame, the head of the U.N. support mission in Libya, called the port attack a "big breach" of the cease-fire.

Footage shared online show thick black smoke rising from the dock areas of Tripoli, supposedly from the shelling.

The current cease-fire was brokered by Russia and Turkey on Jan. 12. But both sides have repeatedly violated the truce, which was supposed to deescalate the fight for control of the Libyan capital.

"We hope to be able in this second round to come to some kind of consensus about what a lasting cease-fire could look like in Libya," Salame told reporters in Geneva.

Oil-rich Libya is split between rival governments based in its east and west, each backed by an array of foreign countries apparently jockeying for influence in order to control Libya's resources.

A U.N.-supported but weak administration, led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, holds only a shrinking area of western Libya, including the capital. It's been fending off an offensive since last April by forces loyal to Gen. . The military commander is allied with a rival government that controls much of Libya's east and south, including key oil fields and export terminals.

Militias allied with the Tripoli government said Tuesday that Haftar's forces had shelled the port.

Haftar's forces later added that they'd hit a depot for weapons and ammunition at the port, "in order to weaken the combat capabilities of the mercenaries who arrived from Syria" to fight alongside Tripoli-based militias.

The U.N. support mission in Libya said five military representatives from each side have met indirectly Tuesday in Geneva, more than a week after they ended their first round of negotiations without striking a deal that would help end the fighting in Tripoli.

Salame said the talks would focus on stopping "the frequent violations of the truce," as well as helping civilians displaced by the fighting return to the capital and its surrounding area.

He added that a "few things happened that give us us more hope" for improving the situation on the ground in Libya. He praised talks over handling Libya's economy held in the Egyptian capital last week, and said further talks on the topic would take place in March. These will focus on "very sensitive issues," including the fairer redistribution of state revenues across divided Libya, he said.

Salame also said that the two sides would hold political talks on Feb. 26 in Geneva.

In the previous round of military talks, the U.N. mission said there was "broad consensus" between the two sides on "the urgency for Libyans to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of the country, and to "stop the flow of non-Libyan fighters and send them out of the country."

Haftar's forces rely on military assistance from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. On the other side, Turkey, Italy and Qatar support the embattled Tripoli-based government.

The Tripoli authorities and U.S. officials have also accused Hifter of relying on hundreds of Russian mercenaries. Sudanese armed groups from the Darfur region recently joined the fighting on both sides, according to a report by U.N. experts.

Powerful tribes loyal to the eastern the commander Haftar have also largely stopped the country's oil production, after they seized last month several large oil export terminals along Libya's eastern coast as well as its southern oil fields.

The country's National Oil Corporation, which dominates Libya's critical oil industry and is based in Tripoli, said losses from the oil closures have reached more than $1.6 billion as of Monday.

The daily oil production has since the closure fallen to 135,745 barrels a day from about 1.2 million. It put the daily losses at close to $59 million.

Libya has the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world and the biggest oil reserves in Africa.

The corporation reiterated its warning that the blockade is quickly depleting fuel that supplies Libyan power stations.

The Geneva talks come amid intensified diplomacy among world powers seeking to end the conflict that has ravaged Libya for nine years and increasingly drawn in foreign powers.

European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to launch a new maritime effort focused on enforcing the U.N arms embargo around the North African country.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.

The fighting for Tripoli has taken a heavy toll on migrants and refugees sheltering in detention centers in the capital. Libya is a major way station for those fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and seeking to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

The Libyan coast guard intercepted more than 300 migrants off Libya's coast and returned them on Monday to the capital where they ended up in an overcrowded detention center, the U.N. migration agency said.

Human rights groups have criticized the migrant facilities in Libya, saying they are rife with abuses and dangerous conditions. The International Organization for Migration said Tuesday more than 1,500 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya so far this year.





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