Libya conflict: GNA and Gen Haftar’s LNA agree to ceasefire

Displaced Libyans are pictured in an unfinished building in the Libyan capital Tripoli on December 18, 2019.
Image captionThese Libyans have found refuge from the fighting in an unfinished building in the capital, Tripoli

Both sides in Libya’s civil war have agreed to a ceasefire, after pressure from their backers, Russia and Turkey.

The forces of Russian ally Gen Khalifar Haftar initially rejected the call, before announcing they would stop their offensive on Tripoli if ” the other party abides by the ceasefire”.

The Government of National Accord, backed by the UN and Turkey, has said it would stop fighting from Sunday.

Turkey last week sent troops to bolster the GNA forces.

Gen Haftar is also backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Jordan, raising fears that oil-rich Libya could become the theatre of a regional conflict, or even a “second Syria”.

Amid the chaos, both Islamist militant groups and migrant smugglers have become well-established, causing particular concern in European countries just across the Mediterranean Sea.

Libya has been wracked by conflict since the 2011 uprising which ousted long-time strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) forces loyal to Gen Haftar control most of eastern Libya and launched and offensive on the capital in April 2019 but have been unable to take the city. Last week, however, they did take the country’s third-biggest city, Sirte.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin called for a ceasefire when they met in Istanbul last week.

A map shows who controls different parts of Libya

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a video statement late on Saturday that the LNA accepted a truce in GNA-controlled western Libya “provided that the other party abides by the ceasefire”. He warned that “any breach will be met with a harsh response”, reports Reuters news agency.

A statement from the GNA, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, later also announced a ceasefire, starting at 00:00 on Sunday (22:00 GMT on Saturday).

Numerous previous efforts to end hostilities and unite the nation have failed, and it is unclear whether the latest initiative will succeed.

Reuters reports that shortly after the ceasefire took effect, artillery fire could be heard from central Tripoli, before the sounds of fighting stopped.

Media captionBBC Arabic found videos of bodies being desecrated by fighters loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar

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