Snubbed by Germany, Athens hosts warlord Khalifa Haftar who's expected to meet Greece's prime minister and other officials during a stopover on his way to Berlin.
Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar secretly flew to Athens on Thursday for talks as Greece criticised its exclusion from a UN-backed peace conference in Berlin this weekend.
Greece was not invited to take part in Berlin negotiations despite its stated interest, and Athens was angered by the Tripoli government signing a maritime and military cooperation deal with Turkey.
In a surprise move, Haftar flew to Athens by private plane on Thursday for meetings not previously announced by the Greek government.
He was taken to a luxury Athens hotel where he was met by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias for an initial round of talks, TV footage showed.
Dendias will see Haftar again on Friday at the Foreign Ministry, and the Libyan warlord is also expected to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis later in the day, sources familiar with the issue told AFP news agency.
Greece has sought a more active role in Libya after the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli signed a maritime and military cooperation memorandum with Turkey in November.
Mitsotakis said on Thursday it was "wrong" to exclude Greece from the Berlin talks and that he would talk to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about it on Friday.
Haftar committed to ceasefire
Earlier on Thursday Germany's foreign minister said Haftar has agreed to respect a ceasefire and said he was ready to participate in an international conference in Berlin on Sunday.
Libya's UN-recognised government in Tripoli has been under attack since April from Haftar's illegal militia, with clashes killing more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displacing tens of thousands.
The leaders of the North African state's warring factions were in Moscow early this week at talks aimed at finalising a ceasefire orchestrated by Russia and Turkey.
"During my visit to Libya today, General Haftar made clear: He wants to contribute to the success of the Libyan conference in Berlin and is in principle ready to participate in it. He has agreed to abide by the ongoing ceasefire," German FM Heiko Maas tweeted after talks in Benghazi.
After the Moscow talks, Haftar had walked away without signing the permanent truce, sparking fears about the shaky ceasefire.
Maas had travelled to meet Haftar in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi – one of the warlord's strongholds – in a bid to persuade him to join in the peace initiative.
Battle for Tripoli
The trip came days after Maas spoke with Fayez al Sarraj, the head of the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.
Separately in Tripoli, Sarraj announced he would attend the Berlin talks held under the auspices of the United Nations.
The battle over Tripoli is the latest unrest to wrack Libya since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed leader Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, Libya has been caught up in fighting between rival armed factions, including militants.
In his report to the UN Security Council late on Wednesday, UN chief Antonio Guterres urged all warring parties to stop fighting and "engage constructively towards that end, including within the Berlin process."
He also warned against "external interference," which he said would "deepen the ongoing conflict and further complicate efforts to reach a clear international commitment to a peaceful resolution of the underlying crisis."
The Berlin conference will aim to agree on six points, including a permanent ceasefire, implementation of the arms embargo and a return to the political process for peace, Guterres said.
As well as killing hundreds of people, the fighting in Libya has also spurred a growing exodus of migrants, though nearly 1,000 intercepted at sea have been forced to return this year, according to the UN.