Brussels: Representatives of European, African and Arab countries threw their weight behind United Nations peace efforts in Libya on Tuesday, calling on the warring sides to continue talks despite a fresh outbreak of violence.
During a meeting in Brussels, the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League and the U.N. envoy for Libya condemned last Friday's attack on the southern air base of Brak Al Shati, saying the scores of victims included civilians.
East Libyan forces retaliated for the surprise attack by a western brigade, an escalation that risks reigniting warfare between forces allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar and those of the U.N.-backed government of Fayez Seraj in Tripoli.
"We encourage all Libyan parties to engage in constructive and inclusive talks," EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini told a briefing after the four-way talks. "It's not for any of us to determine who does what in Libya but ... to make sure that no one lives with the illusion that one side can win against the other."
The latest clashes cast fresh doubt on peace prospects despite a meeting earlier in May between Seraj and Haftar, who represent the main factions in the conflict in Libya, which splintered into competing fiefdoms after a Western-backed uprising toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
"This attack clearly demonstrated that there is a vacuum in the political field. That's why my message is: back to politics," U.N. envoy Martin Kobler told the joint briefing. "Only then there can be an end to military escalation ... We do not have to embellish the situation -- the political situation is blocked but ... we all expressed our cautious optimism."
The lawlessness in Libya has also allowed people-smugglers to operate freely, leading to the arrival of more than 50,000 African migrants in EU state Italy so far this year. Led by Italy, the EU has provided support for Seraj's coast guard to stop people from crossing the Mediterranean. But critics say that by doing so it is aggravating the suffering of migrants who live there in difficult conditions.