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Powers renew pledge to uphold Libya arms embargo

MUNICH (AP) — Countries with interests in Libya's civil war recommitted themselves Sunday to uphold a barely working arms embargo, four weeks after a peace summit in Berlin was followed by numerous new arms violations, officials from Germany and the U.N. said.

Germany and the U.N., which co-hosted the Jan. 19 Berlin summit, gathered foreign ministers and other officials from a dozen countries on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to try to bolster a drive to cut off outside military support for Libya's warring parties.

The countries involved include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with Italy, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Sunday's meeting formally launched an international follow-up committee on Libya. Italy will co-chair the next meeting, in Rome in March.

At the Berlin summit, participants agreed to respect the arms embargo, hold off on military support to Libya's warring parties and push them to reach a full cease-fire. But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that agreement has been repeatedly violated by continuing arms deliveries and an escalation in fighting.

On Sunday, the participants “had a discussion on the deplorable recent violations of the arms embargo, renewed their determination to contribute to its thorough implementation and welcomed progress regarding more efficient monitoring of the embargo,” the German and U.N. hosts said in a statement.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said they spoke “very openly” about recent violations. “Different opinions were voiced on what this is down to, but everyone agrees that the road we have taken — namely, to separate the parties to the conflict from their supporters — remains the only promising road to ending the civil war in Libya,” he told reporters.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. A weak U.N.-recognized administration that now holds the capital of Tripoli and parts of the country's west is backed by Turkey, which recently sent thousands of soldiers to Libya, and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy as well as local militias.

On the other side is a rival government in the east that supports self-styled Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces launched an offensive to capture Tripoli last April. They are backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France and Russia.

Since the Berlin summit, the rival Libyan military factions have met in Geneva in a U.N.-led effort to forge a lasting truce. A first round of talks ended without officials signing an agreement, but Maas said a second round will begin in Geneva on Tuesday.

The U.N. also expects to hold the first meeting of “an inclusive Libyan political forum” in Geneva in 10 days' time but Stephanie Williams, the deputy U.N. envoy for Libya, said that the situation on the ground is “deeply troubling.”

A fragile existing truce “is holding only by a thread, with numerous — over 150 violations,” she said. An oil blockade by allies of Hifter's forces is deepening Libya's economic woes. On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council endorsed the Berlin summit conclusions, including a 55-point road map for ending the war in Libya and condemned the recent increase in violence in the oil-rich North African country.

The European Union, which will discuss Libya in Brussels on Monday, has been arguing about possibly having naval ships enforce the U.N. arms embargo against Libya. Maas, however, stressed the need to enforce the weapons embargo by sea, air and land, given that arms find their way to the warring parties by different routes. He said EU ships may not be needed in the Mediterranean Sea “because sea routes, air routes and land routes can be monitored from the air."

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