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World Powers Pledged to Stop Interfering in Libya. Will They?

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At a Jan. 19 summit in Berlin, a dozen countries promised to stem interference in Libya, the North African nation that has been a battleground for competing factions and the foreign governments that back them. Leaders from Russia, Turkey and 10 other nations called for a ceasefire and agreed to sanction those that break a U.N. arms embargo. All agreed that “only a Libyanled and Libyanowned political process can end the conflict and bring lasting peace.”


Libya has been wracked by conflict since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Last April, warlord Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to wrest Tripoli from the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), torpedoing a planned U.N. conference to draft a road map for Libya’s future. Since then, money, munitions and mercenaries have flowed there from foreign states with interests in the oilrich nation. Among others, Egypt and the UAE back Haftar’s eastern alliance, while Turkey and Qatar support Fayez Sarraj’s GNA.


Turkey and Russia have become key influences in the conflict. In January, reports said Ankara had dispatched 2,000 foreign militiamen to shore up the GNA, which Turkey denies. Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that 2,500 personnel affiliated with a Russian security firm are bolstering Haftar, who on Jan. 14 declined to sign a permanent truce in Moscow. “He continues to be focused on a military solution,” says Tim Eaton, a Libya expert at London’s Chatham House.


Libya’s factions have since taken a “small step” toward peace, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Jan. 19, but doubts remain over the international community’s ability to ensure signatories abide by its terms. Even as talks proceeded, fresh clashes broke out in Tripoli. The world may well continue to interfere, warns Galip Dalay of the Brookings Institution, “because both sides still think they can win this war.”


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Write to Joseph Hincks at joseph.hincks@time.com