Mon, 27 Jan 2020

A cease-fire to end nearly a decade of fighting in Libya is expected to be signed in Moscow on January 13, a senior Libyan official said, as cited by AFP.

Speaking on a local news channel, the head of Libya's High Council of State, Khaled al-Mechri, said the chief of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and militia commander Khalifa Haftar are scheduled to sign a cease-fire in the Russian capital.

The head of the Russian contact group on Libya, Lev Dengov, told Interfax that Haftar and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj will meet to discuss 'the possibility of signing a truce and the details of such a document.'

A truce had gone into effect a day earlier between forces loyal to eastern Libyan strongman Haftar and the GNA government in Tripoli.

The last time Sarraj and Haftar met was in Palermo, Italy, on November 13, 2018, before the militia commander announced a campaign to take Tripoli.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) said the truce was conditional on acceptance by the GNA.

'Any breach will be met with a harsh response,' LNA spokesman Ahmad 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 starting 00:00 on Jan. 12.'

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 cease-fire and make 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 Qaddafi 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.

The 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 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, '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," he added.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, TASS, Interfax, 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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