12th January, 2020
Libyan strongman General Khalifa Haftar on Saturday announced a ceasefire in his months-long battle to control the capital Tripoli after calls for a truce from Russia and Turkey.
The North African state has seen an escalation of the turmoil that erupted after a NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with Haftar trying to capture Tripoli from Libya’s UN-recognised government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week called for a truce in Libya starting Sunday from midnight, but Haftar had initially vowed to fight on.
Haftar’s forces on Saturday agreed to the ceasefire from midnight on Sunday (2200 GMT), but warned of a “severe” response to any violation by the “opposing camp”, a reference to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj.
Before Haftar’s statement, Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met earlier on Saturday in Moscow and called for international efforts to address the crisis in Libya.
Germany and Russia are both acting as mediators in a conflict Berlin has warned could become a “second Syria” and the topic topped the agenda as they met for talks at the Kremlin.
“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.”
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.
Hafter’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, Sarraj had earlier welcomed the Turkish-Russian initiative, but said any ceasefire would be conditional on a withdrawal of Haftar’s forces.
Western powers and Northern African states have been working to prevent a widening conflict in Libya with the increasingly involvement of international players backing opposing forces in the conflict.
Libya is now divided between the GNA in Tripoli and 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.