U.N. Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame holds a news briefing ahead of U.N.-brokered military talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 4, 2020.
U.N. Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame holds a news briefing ahead of U.N.-brokered military talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 4, 2020.

GENEVA - U.N.-sponsored military and security talks aimed at achieving a lasting cease-fire in Libya are underway in Geneva. The negotiations are held as Libya’s warring parties continue to violate a temporary truce agreed to in mid-January.

Five high-ranking officers appointed by the Government of National Accord in Libya and five other high-ranking military officers appointed by rebel commander Khalifa Haftar are in attendance. This is the first time ever that high-ranking officers from both sides are getting together to talk peace.

U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame says both sides agree on the necessity to turn the truce into a permanent cease-fire. But how they will achieve that, he says, is very much an open question.

“That is why these talks in Geneva are meant to listen carefully to the position of the two sides on what are the conditions for them to accept this translation of the truce into a permanent and lasting cease-fire,” Salame said.

Haftar, who began a military assault on Tripoli nearly a year ago in April, expected an easy win. Instead, it has turned into a bloody stalemate, claiming more than 2,000 lives and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

Salame says an arms embargo imposed in 2011 by the U.N. Security Council has been incessantly violated since then. The ready availability of weapons, he says, is a source of great concern as it continues to fuel the war.

“We have evidence of new equipment, but also new fighters, non-Libyan fighters, joining the two camps. Therefore, we believe that the arms embargo is being violated by both parties, and therefore, by the countries who are violating [the embargo] as the source of this equipment or the source of these new fighters,” he said.

Salame says the Security Council has been asked to revitalize a sanctions committee to give more teeth to the arms embargo. He says that could give a much-needed boost to peace talks.