Libyan forces loyal to Haftar announce ceasefire

Libyan forces loyal to Haftar announce ceasefire
Libyan forces loyal to Haftar announce ceasefire

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Libya forces loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar announced on Saturday a ceasefire beginning at midnight local time on acceptance by their rivals, spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a statement.

Turkey and Russia urged Libya's warring factions on Wednesday to declare a ceasefire amid clashes and air strikes in a conflict drawing increasing foreign involvement and concern.

Turkey backs Fayez Al Serraj's Tripoli-based, internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside Field Marshal Haftar's eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

An LNA official confirmed news of the ceasefire to The National but added that that “we will reply if they shoot”

In a statement posted online early on Sunday, the Tripoli based GNA said: "In response to the Turkish president and the Russian president's call for a ceasefire, the head of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord announces a ceasefire starting 00:00 on January 12."

Before Field Marshal Haftar's statement, Mr Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met earlier on Saturday in Moscow and called for international efforts to address the crisis in Libya.

"I am really counting on the opposing sides in Libya ceasing fire, ceasing armed combat... within a few hours," Mr Putin said. "It's important to bring an end to the armed confrontation."

Ms Merkel, making her first visit to Russia since 2018, said she hoped "the Turkish-Russian efforts will be successful," calling a ceasefire a first step in a peace process.

Field Marshal Haftar's forces, who began their offensive on Tripoli in April, did not give any details in their short statement on how the ceasefire would come into effect.

Speaking in Rome after meetings with Italy's premier, Serraj had earlier welcomed the Turkish-Russian initiative, but said any ceasefire would be conditional on a withdrawal of Haftar's forces.

Libya is now divided between the GNA in Tripoli and Field Marshal Haftar's forces in the east and the south and European governments are concerned about Islamist militants and migrant smugglers taking advantage of the chaos.

Mr Putin and Ms Merkel both backed a Libya peace conference in Berlin being organised by UN special envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, which could be held in the coming weeks.

Mr Putin called the initiative "timely" and a "very good step in the right direction."

The conference must include "countries that have a real interest in promoting a peace settlement" and decisions must be agreed preliminarily with the Libyan sides, with the involvement of Salame, he said.

Updated: January 12, 2020 10:28 AM

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