Tripoli and LNA back ceasefire in Libya to start at midnight Sunday

Tripoli and LNA back ceasefire in Libya to start at midnight Sunday
Tripoli and LNA back ceasefire in Libya to start at midnight Sunday

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Fighting around the Libyan capital of Tripoli will halt at midnight on Sunday after the Libyan Government of National Accord agreed to follow suit as the rival Libyan National Army announced a cessation of hostilities.

The move comes after days of efforts by Moscow and Ankara to pause the battle for the Libyan capital, launched in April by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in a bid to end the rule of rag-tag militias that back the administration in the west.

On January 8, following a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey and Russia urged Libya’s warring factions to declare a ceasefire amid clashes and air strikes in a conflict drawing increasing foreign involvement.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari confirmed the ceasefire but an LNA official told The National that “we will reply if they shoot”.

In a statement posted online early on Sunday, the 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.”

Russia is a backer of the LNA while Turkey backs the GNA. Russia and Turkey have cooperated closely on Syria where both countries have boots on the ground backing opposing forces.

Earlier on Saturday, before the announcement, Mr Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met 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.”

Mrs 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.

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

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

He said the conference must include “countries that have a real interest in promoting a peace settlement” and decisions must be agreed in the first instance with the Libyan sides, and with the involvement of Mr Salame.

Field Marshal Haftar’s forces, which began their offensive on Tripoli in April, did not specify how the ceasefire would come into effect.

Speaking in Rome after meetings with Italy’s prime minister, Mr Al Serraj earlier welcomed the Turkish-Russian initiative, but said any ceasefire would be conditional on a withdrawal of Field Marsahl Haftar’s forces.

Libya is 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.

Updated: January 12, 2020 12:06 PM

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