Peace talks in Moscow between the two main protagonists in the Libyan conflict appeared to have failed even before they got off to a promising start after one of them left without signing an expected deal to end all hostilities in and around Tripoli.
Moscow had convened and hosted indirect talks between Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the internationally backed government based in Tripoli and Khalifa Hafter, who controls what remains of the Libyan army and large swathes of eastern Libya.
In truth the expected meeting in Moscow between the two most important figures in the Libyan conflict never came to pass although both men were in the Russian capital at the appointed time.
Russian Foreign ministry officials served as intermediaries in a mediation effort without Sarraj and Hafter coming face to face.
According to reports from Moscow, the Russian and Turkish sponsored cease-fire talks collapsed after Haftar left Moscow apparently without any signed agreement with Sarraj who had appended his signature on a possible peace deal.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov said Haftar had requested to be given until Tuesday to sign up to the agreement.
However, a few hours later, the self-styled head of the Libyan army and his entourage left Moscow apparently without agreeing to the terms of the peace deal.
The agreement would have ended nine months of fighting between Hafter’s men and forces loyal to the UN-backed National Accord Government of Prime Minister Sarraj for the control of the capital, Tripoli.
In the wake of the breakdown in the talks in Moscow, Hafter’s forces say they will not withdraw from their positions, maintaining what appears to be their siege of Tripoli.
While Sarraj enjoys the backing of Turkey, some Western powers, Qatar and the UN, Hafter who controls eastern Libya is supported by Russia, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Libya has been thrown into political instability since the armed uprising against and overthrowing of strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.