Libyan conflict news and discussion

Eagle1

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Clashes at Libyan oilfield claim five lives
by Reuters,
05 February 2018

Libyan forces killed three suspected Islamic State fighters near an oilfield in the southeast of the country, a local official said.

Two soldiers were also killed and five wounded during clashes over two days, one near the Dhahra oilfield on Saturday, said Umar al-Faqeh, head of the Maradah administration to which the area belongs. There was fighting in another area on Friday, he added.

The Dhahra field is operated by Waha, a joint-venture between Libya’s state National Oil Company and US firms Hess, Marathon and ConocoPhillips.

The protection force guarding Waha operations is allied to Libya’s eastern government. The UN-backed administration is in Tripoli in western Libya.

Libya has been mired in conflict since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In December, armed men blew up a Waha pipeline pumping crude to Es Sider port, temporarily cutting Libyan output by around 100,000 barrels per day. Officials blamed “terrorists”, without giving details.

The area has poor security and sources say it has been populated by Islamic State fighters since they lost control of Sirte, their stronghold in Libya in 2016.

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50607:clashes-at-libyan-oilfield-claim-five-lives&catid=52:Human Security&Itemid=114
 

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a forum to discuss the conflict in the war ravaged country of Libya.
 

Timsah

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Egypt supplied a total of 5 Mig-21s with Nasr-250 bombs in support of the Libyan National Government to provide air cover, ground attack missions for the LNA
6762
 

Timsah

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Eight militants were killed in an airstrike near Egypt’s border with war-torn Libya, according to a military spokesman on Saturday.

In a statement, Colonel Tamer al-Refai said the militants were plotting hostile acts against Egyptian targets.

“The operation took place upon intelligence information… that confirmed the presence of a cell in the western desert preparing for hostile acts,” al-Refai said.

Eight “terrorists” were killed and a hideout that contained an amount of arms and ammunition was wiped out in the airstrike.

The reported data could not be independently verified.

Over the past two years, the Egyptian military has announced thwarting several attempts to smuggle weapons into the country through the Libyan border.
 

Eagle1

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Video shows US Navy hovercraft evacuating US personnel from Libya
April 8, 2019


zoom
Illustration: US Marines photo of an LCAC from the USS Arlington.

US personnel stationed in Tripoli were evacuated from the city in the wake of the advance of Libyan National Army forces, led by General Khalifa Hifter, towards the Libyan capital.

LNA forces started their push on April 5.

The UN-backed government says that 21 people have already been killed in fighting near the capital.

The US evacuation occurred on April 7, according to a statement from US Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The evacuated personnel were a contingent of US forces supporting the command whose mission in Libya involves military support to diplomatic missions and counter-terrorism activities.

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“US Africa Command is conducting prudent military planning while continuing to assess the security situation,” AFRICOM further said in the statement.

“The command is making the personnel adjustments in response to the evolving security situation. US Africa Command will continue to monitor conditions on the ground in Libya, and assess the feasibility for renewed US military presence, as appropriate.”

“The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander, US Africa Command. “Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing US strategy.”

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo on April 8 warned Khalifa Haftar’s forces to halt their offensive.

“We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan
capital,” Pompeo said.

“Forces should return to status quo ante positions. All involved parties have a responsibility to urgently de-escalate the situation, as the UN Security Council and G7 ministers emphasized on April 5. This unilateral military campaign against Tripoli is endangering civilians and undermining prospects for a better future for all Libyans.”

Video shows US Navy hovercraft evacuating US personnel from Libya
 

Eagle1

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Airport in Libya's Tripoli Re-opens
Sunday, 21 April, 2019



A Libyan army helicopter that was hit by shrapnel following an air strike is pictured at Mitiga International Airport in the capital Tripoli on April 8, 2019 - AFP

Asharq Al-Awsat

Libya has reopened Tripoli's only functioning airport, according to a posting on the airport authorities' Facebook page on Sunday.

Mitiga airport was closed earlier in the day after residents reported an air strike on the Libyan capital.

A Reuters reporter and several residents said they saw an aircraft circling for more than 10 minutes over the capital with a humming sound before opening fire.

Witnesses had reported drone strikes in the past days but there has been no confirmation.

Explosions heard in the city center this time were louder than in previous days, Reuters reported.

 

Scorpion

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Haftar is going after the MB supported by Turkey and financed by Qatar. I hope he does not stop till all terrorists and separatists get evaporated. He met King Salman three weeks ago. He surely got the green light and lots of logistic and political support
 

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Tripoli neighbourhoods ‘turning into battlefields’
by Reuters -
25th Apr 2019

The humanitarian situation has greatly deteriorated around the Libyan capital Tripoli, where “densely populated residential areas are gradually turning into battlefields”, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.

Hospitals are struggling with chronic shortages of medical supplies amid power outages and weakened water pumping stations, the aid agency said in a statement after three weeks of clashes.

“It is crucial that hospitals, medical facilities, health staff and vehicles transporting the wounded are allowed to carry out their activities safely,” it said.

The World Health Organization said on Twitter that 278 people have been killed in the last three weeks, while 1,332 others have been wounded.

The Libyan National Army, which is allied to a rival government in eastern Libya, has mounted an offensive on Tripoli but has so far failed to breach the city’s southern defences.

Southern suburbs and nearby villages have been heavily fought over and shelled, with territory regularly changing hands.

Tripoli neighbourhoods 'turning into battlefields' - defenceWeb
 

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Banks could be Libya’s next battle
by Reuters -
25th Apr 2019

Eastern Libya commander Khalifa Haftar has thrown much of his military forces into attacking Tripoli, but the outcome of the offensive could be determined by a separate battle — to keep the parallel finance system funding his soldiers open.

Mobilising Libya’s biggest military campaign since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar advanced on the UN-backed administration in the capital from a bastion in the east, where he has a parallel government and central bank branch.

The general funded his eastern state with a mix of unofficial bonds, Russia-printed cash and deposits from eastern banks, accumulating debt worth around 35 billion Libyan dinars ($25.18 billion) outside the official banking system.

Diplomats and banking sources say those sources of support might be closing, as the Tripoli-based central bank, which controls the country’s energy revenues, takes steps to curtail bank operations in the east.

Those banks have in recent months struggled to meet minimum deposit requirements, which could give the Tripoli central bank allied to Tripoli Premier Fayez al-Serraj the excuse to shut off access to hard currency, they said.

“There is a looming banking crisis that could undermine eastern authorities’ ability to fund themselves in the near future,” said Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst at International Crisis Group.

“The crisis was in the making before war broke out.”

Haftar built up his Libyan National Army (LNA) with the help of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt supplying heavy gear such helicopters, according to UN reports.

WELFARE STATE
Gulf countries including the UAE prefer not to give cash to Haftar, fearing it will be used for the wrong purposes, several diplomatic sources told Reuters.

That forced the septuagenarian leader to use merchants to import vehicles and other gear with hard currency from the Tripoli central bank and paid out by eastern commercial banks letters of credit, military sources said.

There is no public data on the costs of Haftar’s war. He has sent more than 1,000 troops west plus support staff including drivers and medics, military sources and residents said.

Fuel is no problem, costing just 0.15 dinars a litre, with state oil firm NOC serving the whole country.
In its attempt to capture Tripoli the LNA uses hundreds of vehicles, with convoys going west non-stop from Benghazi, carrying soldiers, ammunition and food.

Additionally, there aretwo flights daily by Russian transport aircraft from Benghazi to Jufrah in central Libya, his main base. Seriously wounded soldiers are flown to Tunisia.

The offensive has stalled and the LNA vows to move in more troops.

Haftar’s finances face another potential vulnerability.

In November, the House of Representatives allied to Haftar approved setting up a military investment authority which gives the LNA control of parts of the economy including civilian activities such as scrap metal.

The investment vehicle companies are exempt from tax and import duties, as part of a welfare state envisaged by Haftar, but need banks to deal with partners abroad and expand, analysts say.

“If the banks fail, Haftar’s welfare state will come under pressure,” said a Western diplomat.

SUPPORT NETWORK
Functioning banks are needed for Haftar’s parallel government to pay salaries and serve an LNA support network, analysts say. The central bank in Tripoli covers some public salaries in eastern Libya but not LNA soldiers hired after 2014 when the country split into western and eastern administrations.

The Tripoli central bank has cut three eastern banks from Libya’s electronic banking system to curb operations. Lenders can access hard currency via other banks but the Tripoli central bank might shut access completely, diplomats and business sources said.

The Tripoli central bank (CBL) vows to stay neutral but diplomats say it is helping Serraj, approving plans to allocate some two billion dinars for his own war effort.

CBL did not respond to mailed questions.

There has been a banking crisis building up across Libya specially in the east, where three banks struggle to keep a required 20% of customer deposits at the Tripoli central bank. They have been paying out more hard currency in recent months, but need to balance accounts.
“Deposits with CBL have fallen short of statutory minimum requirements,” Husni Bey, a prominent business leader and owner of HB group, said.
Data received by Reuters confirmed this.

FEW OPTIONS
Diplomats do not expect Tripoli central bank governor Sadiq al-Kabir to shut eastern banks completely as this would pose risks for western lenders. The same banks operate in the west and east with money flows difficult to differentiate.

They fear the longer the conflict lasts, the harder it will be to unify central banks and repay debt.

The west piled up debt of 68 billion dinars, bringing Libya’s total deficit and public debt to 130 billion, including unpaid state obligations such as social insurance, said Bey.

The biggest concern among diplomats is that Haftar, who surprised world powers with his offensive, might try selling crude from oilfields and ports, bypassing NOC.

“If the offensive fails, Haftar might do this as he feels encouraged by US President Donald Trump,” a Western diplomat said.

On Friday, the White House said Trump told Haftar he recognised his “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”, a comment which enraged opponents and fired up LNA supporters.

Banks could be Libya’s next battle - defenceWeb
 

Eagle1

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UN hopes Libya peace efforts will bear fruit
by Reuters -
25th Apr 2019

The UN envoy for Libya hopes efforts to establish a peace dialogue between the country’s warring sides could bear fruit within the next weeks.
Ghassan Salame said in Rome contacts had been established and he hoped to see results before the Muslim fasting month Ramadan begins early in May.

“I hope the contacts we have established or re-established among the belligerents can bear fruit before the holy month of Ramadan,” Salame told a news conference.

Commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is fighting forces backing Libya’s UN-recognised government in Tripoli. The LNA mounted an offensive on the capital three weeks ago but has been pushed back in some areas.

Salame, visiting Rome to enlist support from Libya’s former colonial power for a possible ceasefire, did not elaborate on contacts with the warring groups.

Italy, whose southern islands lie close to the Libyan coast, fears a mass exodus of refugees from what is already a starting point for African migrants seeking a new life in Europe.

Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, speaking alongside Salame, said he wrote to the European Union asking it to be prepared to deal with a possible influx of refugees.

He referred to an EU treaty which would oblige the bloc to help Italy if it were swamped with refugees from Libya. Under the treaty, each member state would be required to accept a share of refugees arriving in Italy.

UN hopes Libya peace efforts will bear fruit - defenceWeb
 

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Haftar forces pushed back outside Tripoli
by Reuters -
24th Apr 2019

Forces supporting Libya’s internationally recognised government pushed back troops loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar more than 60 km south-west of Tripoli.

Aziziya town was fully under control of the Tripoli forces with shops reopening after days of fighting, a Reuters team at the scene said.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), allied to a rival government in eastern Libya, mounted an offensive on Tripoli three weeks ago but despite heavy fighting last week failed to breach the city’s southern defences.

In recent days, forces backing the Tripoli administration pushed back the LNA in some areas.

Fighting still raged in some southern suburbs, with shelling throughout the day even in central Tripoli, residents said.

The Reuters team driving south of Aziziya through villages en route to Hira saw several burnt-out cars belonging to Haftar’s forces and five dead fighters.

The Reuters reporters made it to 25 km from Gharyan, the forward base for Haftar’s offensive . The town could still be a challenge to recapture as it lies in the mountains behind Hira.

An LNA prisoner sat on the back of a pick-up truck. The Tripoli forces seized two Soviet-made tanks from the arsenal of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, one heavily damaged.

As the Reuters team was about to leave, rockets were fired from LNA positions.

According to UN figures, 264 people, including 21 civilians, died in fighting since April 5 and 1,266 were wounded, including 69 civilians. About 32,000 civilians fled to safer areas.

The latest military action is a setback to Haftar’s plans to install himself as ruler of the country and could ease a situation dividing and confounding foreign governments with an interest in Libya.

The front remains fluid and fortunes could change. Both sides gained and lost territory in days or even hours.

If a ceasefire is called as demanded by the United Nations, the LNA would still gain a considerable amount of territory.

Libya is the major departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, a big concern for European Union nations.
There have been reports of migrants in a detention facility in Qasr Ben Ghashir district, which has been fought over since the start of the offensive, seriously wounded in random shooting, the UN migration agency said. It gave no more details.

Some 3,600 migrants are still in detention centres near the frontline, the United Nations said in a statement.

“The situation in detention centres is increasingly desperate, with reports of guards abandoning their posts and leaving people trapped,” the world body said. “One facility – Gharyan – has reportedly been without drinking water for days.”

Haftar forces pushed back outside Tripoli - defenceWeb
 

Eagle1

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Tripoli forces push back against Haftar
by Reuters -
29th Apr 2019


Tripoli government soldiers.

Forces backing Libya’s internationally recognised government fought house-to-house battles with troops loyal to Commander Khalifa Haftar in southern parts of Tripoli and appear to be gaining ground.

Government soldiers, some in jeans and t-shirts, took cover in abandoned buildings as they fired on Haftar positions. Some carried anti-aircraft guns removed from their vehicles to get through narrow streets.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), allied to a rival administration in eastern Libya, mounted an offensive on Tripoli three weeks ago but failed to breach defences in the city’s south despite heavy fighting.

The battle for the capital has all but wrecked UN-backed efforts for a peace deal between rival factions and threatened to further disrupt Libya’s oil industry.

Two eastern operations of state oil firm NOC – which in the past made broad statements backing Haftar – for the first time specifically said they supported his offensive. The NOC as a whole has tried to stay out of the conflict.

A Reuters team visiting Ain Zara estimated Tripoli forces had gained up to 1,500 metres compared to an earlier visit.

Other parts of the frontline appeared unchanged and the situation remains fluid. Both sides gained and lost territory within days or even hours during fighting.

“We are progressing. We are now expelling the enemy from the capital,” Salah Badi, a commander from Misrata fighting the LNA, told Reuters.
COMPLICATIONS

The role of commanders including Badi complicate the situation, diplomats say. The UN Security Council and the US Treasury last year issued asset freezes and travel bans against Badi for involvement in a September 2017 attack on forces allied to Tripoli’s government that triggered weeks of fighting.

The former enemies are now united to fight the LNA with forces loyal to Haftar saying the Tripoli administration is controlled by “terrorist militias” they are fighting to expel.

Tripoli supporters accuse Haftar, a former general under Muammar Gaddafi, of making a power grab with foreign backing.

Two NOC unit in areas under Haftar’s control issued statements supporting the offensive, a day after NOC Tripoli headquarters condemned military use of its facilities.

Benghazi-based AGOCO congratulated Haftar’s forces “on the success and progress in its striving against extremist terrorist militias and militias which steal public funds”.

A separate NOC unit in the east, Sirte Oil Co, issued a statement backing the Tripoli advance.

https://www.defenceweb.co.za/security/national-security/tripoli-forces-push-back-against-haftar/
 

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New war funding in Libya
by Reuters -
29th Apr 2019

Libya’s UN-recognised government budgeted up to two billion dinars ($1.43 billion) to cover costs of a three-week-old war for control of the capital to be funded without new borrowing, the economy minister said.

Ali Abdulaziz Issawi suggested government hoped for business to continue more or less as usual despite the assault on Tripoli by forces tied to a parallel administration based in Benghazi.

Once Africa’s third largest producer of oil, Libya is now broadly split between eastern-based forces under Khalifa Haftar and the UN-backed government in Tripoli under Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.

With Haftar’s Libyan National Army forces unable yet to pierce defences in Tripoli’s southern suburbs, normal life and business activities continue in much of the capital and western coastal towns.

Issawi, in an interview with Reuters in his Tripoli office, said Libya’s commercial ports and wheat imports were functioning normally, although some roads have been blocked.

He said the Serraj government estimates it will spend up to two billion dinar extra on medical treatment for wounded, aid for displaced people and other “emergency” war costs.

He said this was not military spending but analysts believe the sum will cover expenses such as pay for allied armed groups and food for fighters.

“We could spend less,” he added, in comments giving an insight into the economic impact of fighting.

Issawi said the Tripoli government, which controls little territory beyond the greater capital region, would not incur new debt to fund war costs, sticking to a plan to post a 2019 budget without a deficit.

Tripoli derives revenue largely from oil and natural gas production, interest-free loans from local banks to the central bank, and a 183% surcharge on foreign exchange transactions conducted at official rates.

With centralised tax collection greatly diminished, public debt piled up – to 68 billion dinars in the west, including unpaid state obligations such as social insurance.

Some analysts expect Serraj’s government will be forced to raise new debt if the war drags on.

With much of Libya dominated by armed factions that also act as security forces the public wage bill for both the western and eastern administrations soared as fighters become public employees in efforts to buy loyalty.

The east sold bonds worth 35 billion dinars outside the official financial system as the Tripoli central bank does not fund the parallel government apart from some wages.

Despite its limited reach, the Tripoli government runs an annual budget of around 46.8 billion dinars, mainly for public salaries and fuel subsidies.
“This year we cannot finance via debt…we will not borrow by agreement with the central bank,” Issawi said.

According to International Monetary Fund data, Libya’s central government debt-to-GDP ratio is 143%, making it one of the most heavily indebted in the world.

Issawi declined to say where the budget would be trimmed to support the extra outlay.

With some 70% of the budget allocated to public wages, fuel subsidies and welfare benefits, a portion for infrastructure is most likely to be axed.
Widespread lawlessness means there have been no major infrastructural projects since 2011.

FOREX SURCHARGE

Issawi said government planned to raise up to 30 billion dinars by the end of 2019 from hard currency deals after imposing a 18% surcharge on commercial and private transactions done ar the official rate of 1.4 to the US dollar last September. That fee effectively devalued the official rate to 3.9, far closer to the black market equivalent.

Some 17 billion dinars have been raised since then, with hard currency allocated for import credit letters now issued without delays, Issawi said. The forex fee helped government forecast a budget in the black for 2019.

Despite the narrowing spread between rates, the black market continues to thrive. Dozens of traders remained behind the central bank headquarters in Tripoli when Reuters reporters visited.

Traders said it could take time for the Serraj government to register extra forex receipts as official banking channels took up to six months to approve import financing, keeping the black market in play for dealers.

Issawi said authorities planned to lower the forex fee from 183%, without saying when. The black market rate has dropped from six to around 4.1 since September but hardly moved as demand for black market cash remains high.

The Tripoli government stopped subsidising food and bread, which used to be cheaper than drinking water in Libya. Wheat imports are now arranged by private traders and there are surplus stocks of flour at present, Issawi said.

New war funding in Libya - defenceWeb
 

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Libya’s largest oilfield attacked
by Reuters -
30th Apr 2019

An armed group attacked Libya’s largest oilfield, but was repelled after clashes with its protection force and fighting escalated in eastern commander Khalifa Haftar’s effort to captureTripoli.

State oil company National Oil Corporation (NOC) said unknown gunmen fired a rocket propelled grenade at a control station in El Sharara oilfield. Guards at the site repelled the attackers, an oil engineer told Reuters.

There were no casualties and production was not affected, the NOC said in a statement.

OPEC member Libya’s oil output has been repeatedly disrupted by factional conflict and blockades since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar’s three-week-old offensive to seize Tripoli, seat of Libya’s internationally recognised government, sharpened a power struggle fracturing Libya since Gaddafi’s fall.

The assault by the Haftar-led Libyan National Army (LNA), allied to a parallel government based in Benghazi, stalled on Tripoli’s stoutly defended southern outskirts last week.

Fighting intensified on Monday, with both sides using artillery. Shelling was heard in the centre of Tripoli from southern districts from morning until late at night, residents said.

The Tripoli forces as well as the LNA claimed progress on different parts of the front though the situation remained fluid.

A prominent commander from Misrata allied to Tripoli died, the LNA and some websites affiliated with armed groups in Misrata said.

No official confirmation was immediately available.

The battle for Tripoli killed at least 345, including 22 civilians, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said. A Tripoli hospital was evacuated after shelling shattered windows, the official tweeted.

The United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR said 146 refugees, mainly Africans and a handful of Syrians, were evacuated to Italy, where asylum claims will be processed. Most were transferred earlier this month from detention centres near the fighting, a spokeswoman said.

More than three thousand migrants and refugees remain in detention centres near the Tripoli clashes, the UNHCR said.

OILFIELD SEEN AS VULNERABLE
It was unclear who the gunmen at El Sharara are affiliated to. The oilfield is in a south-western region held by forces loyal to Haftar.

State guards and local tribesmen shut down El Sharara in December to press financial demands before allowing production to restart in March.
The field, operated by the NOC and foreign partners, has been pumping crude intermittently due to blockades and other incidents.

UN officials say Haftar is backed militarily by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which want to build him up to help fight and neutralise Islamist militants in the region. His opponents see him as a budding autocrat in the Gaddafi mould.

Divisions among European and Gulf nations on how to deal with Haftar scuppered UN efforts to broker a ceasefire and prepare Libya for elections to help reunify the North African country.

France and the United States stand accused by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s government in Tripoli of playing both sides since Haftar launched his offensive. Paris backed Haftar efforts to curb radical Islamists while formally supporting Serraj’s UN-recognised government.

Serraj is backed emphatically by Italy, the former colonial power with oil assets in Libya and Turkey. Qatar, a UAE Gulf rival, supports Serraj.
UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, warned nations tempted to continue supporting Haftar he was no democrat and his political agenda was not favoured by most Libyans.

“He is no Abraham Lincoln, he is no big democrat, but has qualities and wants to unify the country,” Salame told France Inter radio.
Salame said his peace making effort was suffering from divisions in the UN Security Council that saw to a British draft resolution on stopping the Tripoli fighting blocked by Russia and the United States.

https://www.defenceweb.co.za/security/national-security/libyas-largest-oilfield-attacked/
 

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Russia’s Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan call for Libya cease-fire during telephone call
30 April 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in Libya. (AFP/File Photo)

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in Libya and renewal of a political process under the aegis of the United Nations during a phone call on Tuesday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

They also underscored further close coordination between Russia and Turkey aimed at “normalization” in Syria's Idlib province and agreed on “efficient” measures against militants there, the Kremlin said.

 

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