The conflict in Libya can only be resolved through diplomacy, and all efforts to find a solution should go in the same direction, Russia’s top diplomat said Wednesday. 

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said they concluded that there was no alternative to overcoming the Libyan conflict other than by political and diplomatic means.

“We were interested in an early settlement of the Libyan crisis from the very beginning of this conflict, which was — as it should not be forgotten — caused by an aggressive action, an adventure of NATO in gross violation of UN Security Council resolutions in 2011 when NATO bombed Libya,” Lavrov said.

He said they were still “trying to collect the fragments of this vase together.”

“From the very beginning, Russia maintained relations with all Libyan parties without exception, including those in the east and in the west, and with the representatives of the Government of National Accord and with representatives of the parliament in Tobruk, with the leadership of the Libyan National Army and with other players.”

Noting that the UN Security Council resolution on Libya should be implemented, Lavrov said: “All our efforts are aimed at ensuring that this resolution gets implemented. Therefore, numerous mediators are trying to contribute here.”

These mediators, Lavrov said, were Italy, Russia and other countries in the region including Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Germany — as the initiator of the Berlin Conference.

“Now the most important task is to ensure that all these efforts go in the same direction,” he said, adding it is important that all Libyan parties are involved in the political process for ensuring the balance of interests of all regions of Libya.

Pointing out that all work in this direction should be carried out under the auspices of the UN, Lavrov said that following the meeting held between Libyan parties in Cairo, preparations were underway for a meeting in Geneva.

He stressed that the urgent appointment of a new UN Special Envoy for Libya — a position which has been vacant since March — is important, adding “it is no secret that the main obstacle preventing it is the US position.”

– Strong international cooperation

Di Maio said it is very important to strengthen cooperation between Libya, Italy and Russia and emphasized the need for international support to organize the next Libyan political dialogue forum.

He recalled Italy’s support for the resumption of oil supplies from Libya.

He said there was already “progress” with the restoration of oil production in some parts of Libya, adding they hope it will spread to the rest of the country.

On Aug. 21, the Libyan government announced a truce and ordered the military to stop operations against warlord Khalifa Haftar’s militias. The army, however, has since reported several breaches of the cease-fire by the militias.

Diplomatic efforts have been underway in recent weeks to resolve the conflict following victories by the army against Haftar’s forces.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Government of National Accord was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement have failed due to a military offensive by forces loyal to Haftar.

The UN recognizes Fayez al-Sarraj’s government as the country’s legitimate authority as Tripoli has battled Haftar’s militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

Turkey supports the legitimate government led by al-Sarraj.

– Upper Karabakh conflict

Di Maio also thanked Lavrov for the “efforts made to achieve a cessation of hostilities” in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

He said Italy was “very concerned” about the risk of an escalation in the conflict and worried about the casualties among civilians.

Clashes broke out on Sept. 27 when Armenian forces targeted civilian Azerbaijani settlements and military positions in the region, leading to casualties.

According to Azerbaijani authorities, at least 43 Azerbaijani civilians have been killed in attacks by Armenian forces and more than 200 others injured.

“Only a political solution can lead to peace and stability in the region. It is impossible to resolve this conflict by military means,” he said.

“Current events demonstrate that the status quo can no longer be maintained. Therefore, it is necessary that the parties resume negotiations without preconditions under the auspices of the Minsk Group co-chairs.”

Di Maio said his country “highly appreciated” Moscow’s “balanced position,” adding they believe Russia, also as a co-chair of the Minsk Group, could play a “decisive role” in promoting the dialogue by “using its influence” on Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Relations between the two former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh.

Some 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for around three decades.

The two states agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire taking effect on Saturday for the exchange of prisoners and retrieval of bodies in Upper Karabakh.

The truce came after a trilateral meeting in Moscow between the foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

But Armenian forces launched a missile strike Sunday on Azerbaijan’s second-largest city Ganja — despite it being outside the front line zone — killing 10 civilians and injuring 35.

Multiple UN resolutions as well as many international organizations demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces from Azerbaijani lands.

The OSCE Minsk Group — co-chaired by France, Russia and the US — was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.

Turkey has supported Baku’s right to self-defense and its sovereignty over the occupied territories.

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