Germany aims to host Libya conference to stabilise oil producer
By Ulf Laessing and Mahmoud Mourad
CAIRO, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Germany aims to host a conference about Libya this year in conjunction with the United Nations to try to stabilise the oil producing country, where rival factions have been fighting over the capital, Germany's ambassador to Libya said on Wednesday.
The plans, which are still in the early stages according to diplomats, are the first major diplomatic push since eastern forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar launched in April an offensive to take the capital Tripoli, held by the internationally recognised government of Premier Fayez al-Serraj.
The campaign has displaced more than 120,000 people and derailed years of U.N peace efforts but gone nowhere as Haftar's Libya National Army (LNA) has been unable to breach Tripoli's southern suburbs.
U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame last month unveiled plans for an international Libya conference to bring together foreign powers backing rival groups on the ground, without naming a venue.
"Germany therefore initiated a consultation process with key international partners. With sufficient preparatory work these efforts could lead towards a meaningful international event this fall," Oliver Owcza, Germany's ambassador to Libya, said on Twitter.
He gave no details on the event announced just after German Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament the situation in the north African country risked destabilising the whole of Africa.
Diplomatic sources said the event would be held in Berlin in October or November.
Libya's conflict has increasingly become a proxy war between foreign powers which have been backing various armed group since the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi - the former rebels have been fighting each other since then.
Haftar, who is allied to a parallel government in the east, has for years enjoyed the military support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, U.N. reports say.
Turkey has been backing Serraj and has been sending his forces combat drones and vehicles since the start of the war which has balanced out a military edge for the LNA, diplomats say.
Salame thinks Germany can mediate, as it is seen as impartial in the conflict in contrast to France and Italy, which have been competing for influence and have oil and gas interests in Libya, diplomats say.
Both countries brought Haftar and Serraj plus regional players together at summits in Paris and Palermo last year, but didn't achieve a breakthrough.
Germany has strong ties with Turkey and Egypt, whose bilateral ties have been strained since the Egyptian military, then led by Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, ousted the Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
The conference's goal would be to push foreign players to enforce an existing arms embargo and for a ceasefire to allow Libyans to meet afterwards for political talks.
Key obstacles will be to get Turkey to sit with top officials from Egypt and the UAE, Western diplomats say.
The Turkish delegation withdrew at the last Libya conference held by Italy in November after Turkey Vice President Fuat Oktay was not allowed to join meetings between Haftar, Serraj, Sisi and European actors such as Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, according to diplomats.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Potter)
((Ulf.Laessing@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: follow me on twitter @ulflaessing))
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