MOSCOW (AFP) -- Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar left Moscow on Tuesday without signing a permanent truce aimed at ending nine months of fighting, though Russia claimed he agreed to maintain the fragile ceasefire.
The commander’s abrupt departure early Tuesday was a setback for an international diplomatic push in recent days, though Moscow insisted it would continue mediation efforts.
Russia’s defense ministry, which attended Monday’s talks, said Haftar had asked for two days to consider the deal and a shaky ceasefire established at the weekend would continue.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who first brokered the Libya truce deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week -- warned he would "teach a lesson” to Haftar if his forces resumed fighting.
Haftar and his allies were in Moscow on Monday for talks with the United Nations-recognized government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj that is based in Tripoli.
Sarraj’s government has been under attack since April from forces loyal to Haftar, who is based in the east of the oil-rich North African country with his own loyalist politicians.
The two sides had agreed to the ceasefire that took effect at the weekend and were in Moscow to sign a long-term agreement.
Haftar departed without inking the document but the talks achieved "an agreement in principle... to maintain the ongoing ceasefire,” the defence ministry said.
The talks raised hopes of an end to the latest fighting to wrack Libya since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
But after seven hours of negotiations, only Sarraj signed the agreement, and the two sides apparently never met face-to-face.
A Facebook page for Haftar supporters said Tuesday that they are "ready and determined to achieve victory.”
"We will pursue our efforts in this direction. For now, a definitive result has not been achieved,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Haftar had asked to postpone signing until Tuesday morning, Lavrov said.
Russia’s military however said that Haftar "asked to take two days to discuss the document with tribes supporting the (Libyan National Army),” which he commands.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source in Haftar’s stronghold Benghazi as saying he did not sign because the agreement had no timetable for disbanding groups allied with Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA).
Erdogan reacted angrily, saying "We will not hesitate to teach the putschist Haftar a deserved lesson ... if he continues his attacks on Libya’s legitimate administration and our brothers in Libya”.