Libya’s warring rival administrations announce immediate ceasefire

A fighter of Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, fires a truck-mounted machine gun at the forces of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, at Ain Zara frontline, in the southern suburbs of capital Tripoli. Photo: Amru Salahuddien/dpa (Photo by Amru Salahuddien/picture alliance via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: A fighter of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) fires at the forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar. (Photo by Amru Salahuddien/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Libya’s rival governments on Friday issued separate statements announcing an immediate ceasefire in what was the first deal between both sides since one in 2015 which resulted in an agreement on the creation of a unity government.

The statements, signed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and speaker of the eastern-based parliament Aguila Saleh, also backed the holding of elections.

While the GNA’s statement called for parliamentary and presidential elections in March 2021, the eastern-based parliament did not give any specifics on a date.

Both sides also called for an end to an oil blockade imposed by Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army, who backs the eastern-based parliament. They also supported a move to have oil revenues deposited into the bank account of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) outside Libya.

Oil production in Libya has fallen drastically to less than 100,000 barrels a day, since January, after groups loyal to Haftar shut down oil facilities in Libya’s eastern parts. The move was an attempt to constrict the resources of the UN-backed Libyan government.

In response to the statements, the NOC welcomed the move and called for all oil facilities to be freed from military occupation to ensure the security and safety of its workers.

The GNA statement also called for demilitarised zones in Sirte and Al-Jufra, which are currently under control of forces loyal to Haftar.

The eastern-based parliament, on its part, proposed the appointment of a new administration in Sirte but did not mention anything on the demilitarized zones.

Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and take Tripoli but the GNA, with support from Turkey, managed to fight them off and force them to retreat in June. The LNA, on its part, has been backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.

An escalation of hostilities had been expected as forces from both sides mobilized around the strategic city of Sirte, where the fighting has stopped.

Regional and international countries and the United Nations welcomed the statements from both administrations in the hope that this will be an opportunity to create lasting peace.

“All parties to rise to this historic occasion and shoulder their full responsibilities before the Libyan people,” the acting U.N. envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams said.

“I welcome statements by Libya’s presidential council and the House of Representatives calling for a ceasefire,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a tweet.