Libyan government army declares ceasefire

Tobruk-based authority’s move follows similar decision by rival faction in advance of next round of UN-brokered talks.

Libya’s internationally recognised government has declared a ceasefire, with UN-brokered peace talks set to resume in Geneva next week.

Sunday’s announcement by the Tobruk-based government, operating out of the east of the country, came two days after rival factions agreed to a truce. 

“We declare a ceasefire from midnight (22:00 GMT) on Sunday,” the army said on Sunday, adding that it would continue to pursue “terrorists”.

Operating out of the north west of the country, in Tripoli, the rival self-declared parliament known as the General National Congress (GNC), which was reinstalled by faction Fajr Libya (Fajr Dawn), added a clause to their truce saying on Sunday they would not attend the talks unless they are held in Libya.

The GNC said, however, that they were willing to negotiate. 

Omar Hmeidan, spokesperson for the GNC, said: “Talks must be in Ghat, not in Geneva.” 

Abduqader Hawaili, another GNC member, said 100 of the 110 members attending Sunday’s session of the GNC had voted in favour of the proposal.

The opposing factions have been meeting in Switzerland in what has been touted as a last chance for peace in the country.

About 600 people have been killed in three months of heavy fighting between Libyan pro-government forces and Islamist groups in the country’s second-largest city Benghazi, according to a Reuters tally based on reports from medical staff.

The fighting is part of a wider struggle in the oil producer where two governments and parliaments, allied to armed groups, are vying for control almost four years after the ousting of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Jason Pack from, speaking to Al Jazeera from London, said that the ceasefire agreement was only “moderately promising”, adding that while Fajr Libya, an alliance of a number of militia groups, had agreed to a truce, many other militia groups operating in the country had not. 

“We also do not have both sides of the political leadership of Tripoli represented in Geneva,” Pack said.

The army said it would monitor the situation on the ground “to prevent any change in frontlines or transportation of weapons and ammunition,” which it would consider a violation of the truce.

Soldiers “have been given the right to defend themselves if they come under fire”, the statement said.

On Friday, the Fajr Libya alliance said it had agreed to “a ceasefire on all fronts” on condition that “the other parties respect the truce”.

It also pledged to open up “safe passages to channel humanitarian aid”, especially in Libya’s second city of Benghazi.

Fajr Libya did not take part in a first round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva last week, during which the rival factions agreed on a road map to form a unity government and to further discussions.

The army’s announcement came after the UN Security Council welcomed the Fajr Libya ceasefire and threatened to impose sanctions on any party that obstructed peace efforts.

“There can be no military solution to the crisis in Libya,” the council said in a unanimous statement on Saturday.

It warned it was “prepared to sanction those who threaten Libya’s peace, stability or security or that obstruct or undermine the successful completion of its political transition”.

Rival parliaments

Fajr Libya took control over Tripoli in August, forcing the Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to leave the capital. 

The alliance has since set up their own government and parliament, the GNC, but these have not been recognised by the United Nations. Both sides fight each other on several fronts.

Libya has failed to build up a national army and efficient state institutions since Gaddafi’s ousting as the country is effectively run by former rebel brigades who use their weapons to fight for control.

Thinni is accusing Fajr Libya of relying on Islamist armed groups but has allied himself with former general Khalifa Haftar, a Gaddafi-era officer commanding his own irregular forces.

Thinni’s government is recognised by the United Nations and Western powers, but the Tripoli administration controls ministries, airports, some oil facilities and much of western Libya.

Bernardino Leon, the UN special envoy to Libya, had said at the start of the Geneva talks last week that they were a last-ditch effort to prevent all-out chaos.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies