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BERLIN (Reuters) – A Libyan military commander waging an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli is committed to a ceasefire, Germany’s foreign minister said on Thursday, in an apparent advance for efforts to end a near-decade of turmoil in the north African country.

FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

The minister, Heiko Maas, added that commander Khalifa Haftar is also willing to attend a conference in Berlin on Sunday aimed at addressing the conflict, the foreign ministry said, after Mass visited the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Haftar’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Maas’s comment follows failed efforts by Russia and Turkey to persuade Haftar on a visit to Moscow this week to agree to a lasting ceasefire and halt the offensive on the Libyan capital. Haftar left Moscow without signing the proposal.

The nine-month-old war over Tripoli is just the latest bout of chaos in Libya, an OPEC oil exporter that has become a hub for human traffickers to ship migrants by boats to Italy, while Islamist militants have exploited the widespread disorder.

Germany on Sunday hosts a summit bringing together foreign powers and the Libyan rival camps backed by them to try end the war over Tripoli and resume talks over a power-sharing deal.

Maas flew to Haftar’s base in eastern Libya on Thursday to discuss the Berlin summit.

“General Haftar has signaled his readiness to contribute to the success of the Libya Conference in Berlin and is willing to participate. He has repeated his commitment to observe the existing ceasefire,” the ministry tweeted Maas as saying after meetings in Benghazi.

OUTSIDE POWERS

The country has been fractured and deeply unstable, with outside powers providing support to rival factions, since veteran dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a 2011 uprising.

Turkey backs Serraj’s government, while Haftar has received support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Russian mercenaries.

Turkey is beginning to send troops into Libya in support of the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier on Thursday.

“In order for the legitimate government in Libya to remain standing and for stability to be established, we are now sending our soldiers to this country,” Erdogan told an event in Ankara.

Erdogan warned on Tuesday that Turkey would not refrain from “teaching a lesson” to Haftar’s eastern Libyan forces if their attacks against the GNA continue. The talks in Moscow were the latest attempt to stabilize Libya, which has the largest proven reserves of oil in Africa.

Turkey and Libya signed two agreements in November, one on military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean. Erdogan said Turkey will quickly start granting licenses for exploration and drilling in the region.

“In the areas that remain between Turkey and Libya, it is now legally impossible for there to be exploration and drilling activities or a pipeline without the approval of both sides,” he said.

Writing by Ulf Laessing, Editing by William Maclean

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via Reuters

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