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Haftar thanks 'dear friend' Putin ahead of Libya peace summit

Talks in Berlin come as world powers step up efforts for lasting ceasefire in North African country
Germany insists Haftar is "committed" to ceasefire that was brokered by Turkey and Russia last week (AFP)

Libya's eastern commander Khalifa Haftar thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his efforts to end fighting in the war-ravaged country, days ahead of a peace conference in Berlin.

"Vladimir Putin, my dear friend!" Haftar said in a letter addressed to Putin on Friday. "I express my personal gratitude and appreciation for the efforts of the Russian Federation to bring about peace and stability in Libya."

Haftar, who is reportedly backed by Russian mercenaries in the Libyan conflict, also said he was ready to visit Russia again to continue dialogue, the Kremlin reported.

Haftar walkout on Libya talks puts Russia 'in tight spot', say Turkish officials
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Haftar was in the Russian capital earlier this week, but refused to agree to an open-ended ceasefire to end months of fighting.

Flanked by advisers from the UAE, he left the summit without a statement or a signature, after reportedly being denied an audience with Putin.

After returning to Libya on Tuesday, he has since held talks with German officials and secretly flown to Greece.

Sunday's talks in Berlin come as world powers step up efforts for a lasting ceasefire, nine months after Haftar launched an assault on the capital Tripoli that has killed more than 2,000 people and displaced tens of thousands.

According to the UN, the Berlin conference will aim to agree to six points, including a permanent ceasefire, implementation of a much-violated UN arms embargo and a return to political efforts towards peace.

Despite Haftar walking away from the ceasefire talks in Moscow, Germany's Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas insisted that the 76-year-old is "committed" to a ceasefire that was brokered by Turkey and Russia last week.

That ceasefire has seen a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes, though the warring sides have accused each other of violations. 

"[Haftar] has repeated his commitment to observe the existing ceasefire," Maas tweeted on Thursday after meeting with Haftar in Benghazi.

Haftar seeks to 'undermine' Berlin

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, whose Government of National Accord  (GNA) did sign the Moscow deal, has cast doubt over Haftar's intentions ahead of the Berlin summit.

Haftar "has chosen not to sign [Monday's] agreement and asked for a delay," he said, calling that "an attempt to undermine the Berlin conference before it starts."

Libya has been wracked by violence since a 2011 Nato-backed uprising overthrew longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, multiple foreign powers have become involved in the country.

Since disputed elections in 2014, the country has been divided between competing administrations, with the UN-recognised GNA based in Tripoli and a rival administration in Libya's east that is aligned with Haftar. 

The GNA is backed by Turkey, while Haftar has the support of neighbouring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well the support of mercenaries from Sudan and Russia.

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