UN chief calls again for an immediate cease-fire in Libya

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called again for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and a return to talks by all the warring parties.

The U.N. chief warned in a statement from his deputy spokesman that “any foreign support to the warring parties will only deepen the ongoing conflict and further complicate efforts to reach a peaceful and comprehensive political solution.”

Guterres’ comments followed Thursday's authorization by Turkey's parliament to deploy troops to Libya to support the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli that is battling forces loyal to a rival government seeking to capture the capital.

Ankara says the deployment is vital for Turkey to safeguard its interests in Libya and in the eastern Mediterranean, where it finds itself increasingly isolated as Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel have established exclusive economic zones paving the way for oil and gas exploration.

Libya has been in turmoil since a civil war in 2011 toppled Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country's west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.

Hifter launched a surprise military offensive April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections.

The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed Gadhafi.

While Hifter's LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Turkey, Italy and Qatar.

The Turkish parliament’s decision to deploy troops was condemned by neighboring Egypt, which backs Hifter, in what its foreign ministry called “the strongest language.” The leaders of Greece, Israel and Cyprus also denounced the move as a “dangerous threat to regional stability" and a “dangerous escalation” of the Libyan conflict that violates U.N. resolutions and undermines international peace efforts.

Secretary-General Guterres reiterated that continued violations of the U.N. arms embargo in Libya “only makes matters worse,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The U.N. chief stressed that “strict adherence to the embargo is essential for creating an environment favorable to a cessation of hostilities,” Haq said.

Last month, U.N. experts said the interference of Chadian and Sudanese fighters in Libya is “a direct threat” to the security and stability of the war-torn country. They also noted that a leader of the Islamic State extremist group has declared Libya “one of the main axes” of its future operations.

The panel of experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council that "Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates routinely and sometimes blatantly supplied weapons, with little effort to disguise the source" in violation of the U.N. arms embargo.

They identified multiple cases of non-compliance with the arms embargo, the majority of transfers to Hifter’s LNA from Jordan or the United Arab Emirates and the majority to the Tripoli government from Turkey.

But, the panel said, "Neither side has the military capability to effectively decide the outcome to their advantage."

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