At last, Libyan warlord khalifa Haftar, announces ceasefire
London, Jan. 12, 2020 (AltAfrica)– The forces of Libyan strongman General Khalifa Haftar on Saturday announced a ceasefire from midnight on Sunday (2200 GMT) following calls from Moscow and Ankara for a truce
They warned, however, in a short statement that the “response will be severe in the event of any violation of the truce by the opposing camp”, a reference to the UN-recognised government in Libya, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj.
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The LNA said they would maintain the truce in western parts of the country “provided that the other party abides by the ceasefire.”
LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari also warned that “any breach will be met with a harsh response.”
Haftar’s forces have been battling to take the capital from the GNA since April.
Haftar launched the attack on Tripoli in April 2019, but his forces have so far been unable to seize control of the capital. The warlord is allied with an administration based in the east of the country and is believed to enjoy backing from France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. His rivals also claim Haftar’s forces are boosted by Russian mercenaries.
However, the GNA government has allies of its own in the region, with Turkey recently deploying troops to Libya to bolster the UN-backed administration.
Meanwhile, Libya’s U.N.-backed prime minister on Saturday conditioned his government’s participation in a proposed ceasefire to rival forces withdrawing from the outskirts of Tripoli, suggesting no immediate end to the country’s civil war.
Prime Minister Fayez Serraj defended his “bellicose activities” to protect the Libyan capital, the seat of his government, on the eve of the start date for the truce proposed by Turkey and Russia. Serraj spoke while in Rome for a meeting with Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte.
The meeting was the latest diplomatic effort to end the offensive launched by Serraj’s rival in eastern Libya, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, and return the two sides to a U.N.-supported political process.
The presidents of Turkey and Russia this week called for a ceasefire between the warring eastern and western Libyan forces starting Sunday. While Serraj’s government welcomed the call, a spokesman for Hifter’s self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, Ahmed al-Mosmari, said the group’s battalions would still try to take control of Tripoli from what he called “terrorist groups.”
“We welcome with pleasure the Russian and Turkish initiative that points to a cease-fire, as we are always open to and welcome any initiative that goes in this direction,” Serraj said in comments after meeting with Conte. “As long as it is conditioned on the complete withdrawal of the adversary, the attackers. But in our long experience, we do not trust any offers from the attackers because deception is the way they operate.”