Fri, 14 Aug 2020

Forces loyal to eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar and the UN-backed Tripoli government both say they have agreed to a cease-fire, potentially bringing a truce in the fierce battle to control the war-ravaged North African country.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) said the truce, set to go into effect in the early hours of January 12, was conditional on acceptance by the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which is based in Tripoli.

'Any breach will be met with a harsh response,' LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a video statement.

In a statement posted online early on January 12, the GNA said: 'In response to the Turkish president and the Russian president's call for a cease-fire, the head of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord announces a cease-fire.'

The GNA had previously welcomed the call for a cease-fire but said its responsibility was to protect its citizens.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it welcomed the truce and called on all sides 'to strictly abide by the ceasefire and make a room for peaceful efforts to address all disputes through a Libyan-Libyan dialogue.'

A day earlier, Haftar's LNA had said it would not halt its campaign to drive the UN-backed government from Tripoli amid calls from Russia and Turkey for a cease-fire.

Many observers say a truce will be hard to maintain given the fractious, unsteady nature of Libya's military alliances.

Libya has been torn by violence since longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

The country has two rival administrations, the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and Haftar's in the city of Tobruk.

GNA is supported by NATO-member Turkey and its ally Qatar. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that he had dispatched military elements to Libya to ensure stability for the GNA.

UN experts and diplomats say that Russian military contractors in recent months have deployed alongside Haftar's LNA, which has also received air support from the United Arab Emirates and backing from Jordan and Egypt.

Turkey and Russia have both been criticized by UN and Western officials who say their efforts to arm their allies have led to an intensification of the violence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on January 11, said earlier in the day that Libyan peace talks would be held in Berlin and that Libya's warring parties would need to play a major role to help forge a resolution.

Merkel said she hoped the 'Turkish-Russian [cease-fire] efforts will be successful.'

Berlin and Moscow are acting as mediators in the conflict, which Germany has warned could become a 'second Syria.'

Putin said that 'I am really counting on the opposing sides in Libya ceasing fire, ceasing armed combat...within a few hours,' Putin said.

'It's important to bring an end to the armed confrontation.'

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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