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Haftar to join peace talks

Agence France-Presse

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LIBYAN strongman Khalifa Haftar greets German Foreign Minister Minister Heiko Maas in Benghazi as preparations for a peace accord take place in Athens, Greece. AFP

ATHENS, Greece (AFP) — Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar will hold talks in Athens on Friday, days ahead of a peace conference in Berlin which he and the head of Tripoli’s UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj are expected to attend.

The talks come as world powers step up efforts for a lasting ceasefire, nine months since an assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces sparked fighting that has killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters, displacing tens of thousands.

An interim truce that came into force Sunday has mostly held, despite accusations of violations from Haftar’s forces and the rival Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar flew to Athens by private plane on Thursday and was taken to a luxury Athens hotel where he was met by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias for an initial round of talks, TV footage showed.

He is scheduled to talk to Dendias again on Friday before meeting Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, sources working on the negotiations told AFP.

Greece has sought a more active role in Libya after the GNA in Tripoli signed a maritime and military cooperation memorandum with Turkey in November carving out energy spheres of influence in the Mediterranean.

The Turkish deal claims much of the Mediterranean for energy exploration, conflicting with rival claims by Greece and Cyprus.

Greek premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said Athens will veto any agreement brought before the EU for approval unless the contentious agreement is dropped.

Haftar agreed “in principle” Thursday to attend a peace conference in Berlin after Sarraj signalled he would be present.

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