Fighting Mars Peace Efforts for Syria, Libya

Aug. 13. - Despite diplomatic moves in Syria and Libya, fighting continued in the two countries. A truce in regions of Syria was extend an extra two days, and multi-faction fighting in Libya occurred during and after Geneva peace talks.

Libya Peace Talks

On Wednesday, two rival governments of Libya met in Geneva to initiate negotiations for a unity government. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives, the internationally recognized government of Libya, and the Islamist-backed General National Congress of Tripoli agreed to seek a reconciliation within weeks.

"The parties underscored their determination to conclude the dialogue process as soon as possible, with a target date within the coming three weeks," the UN said in a statement. "Finalisation of the dialogue process would pave the way towards final adoption by the parties of the Libyan Political Agreement, to be followed by its formal endorsement at the beginning of September."

Libya Conflict

Nonetheless, fighting continued among other factions in Libya. Helicopters of the Tobruk government fired upon Islamic State fighters shelled neighborhoods in Sirte. The radical IS fighters then shelled rival Islamist fighters in Sirte's residential neighborhoods.

Also, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, aligned with the Tobruk House of Representatives, said in a live television interview on Aug. 11 that he would resign if the Libyan people wanted him to. Al Thani has come under criticism as infrastructure suffers during the civil war and citizens are unable to receive services such as electricity.

Another leadership issue facing Libya is the future of the commander of the Tobruk government forces, Gen. Khalifa Haftar. Haftar had been a general under the Ghaddafi regime before moving to the United States. He returned to Libya last year and in March 2015 was given command of Tobruk forces. The Islamist General Congress has called for his removal and has said his tenure as military chief is a sticking point in negotiations.

Truce in Syria, Russian-sponsored talks

Warring factions in Syria Wednesday agreed to a 48-hour truce in Zabadani and the Foua and Kfarya villages in the Idlib province. The truce, which was extended an additional 48 hours, was brokered by Turkey and Iran.

Zabadani has seen a major assault in recent weeks by Syrian government forces and Hezbollah fighters dissolving Al Nusra and other rebels from the city.

Moscow also on Aug. 13 hosted talks among various factions. The Russian government, which is a backer of the Assad government in Damascus, has engaged in a diplomatic initiative this summer.

Fighting in Syria

Syrian reports said the Islamic radicals fired rocket into the coastal city of Lattakia.

The Assad government came under heavy criticism for its coming campaign. US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers said that the Damascus government has used more than 2,000 barrel bombs in civilian areas. In Syria, civil defense volunteers in the Damascus suburb of Daraya accused the Assad government of dropping napalm near residential areas. The volunteers said Damascus aircraft dropped barrel bombs near an electricity facility, with fire immediately spreading to nearby civilian homes.

The United States announced this week that, for the first time, it was using F-16s based in Turkey against Islamic State positions in Syria. The US has been conducting its air strikes in Syria from more distant bases.

Australia, which has been conducting air strikes on Islamic State radicals in Iraq, said it is considering extending its intervention against IS into Syria.