Libya’s rival parliaments have issued a call for a country-wide ceasefire, with the GNA announcing Sirte will become a demilitarized city.
Rabat – Libya’s alternative parliament has responded positively to a call for an immediate ceasefire in the war-torn country. The parliament, aligned with Khalifa Haftar, called today on its forces to lay down arms. The move came in compliance with a similar announcement by Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) earlier in the day.
The GNA statement called for the contentious city of Sirte to become a demilitarized city. Sirte would see the formation of a transitional seat of government to expand the ceasefire into a sustainable peace. GNA chief Fayez Al-Sarraj said the ceasefire intended to realize “full sovereignty over the Libyan territory and the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries,” as quoted by Reuters.
The sudden ceasefire marks an unusual turn of events within an ever more chaotic conflict in Libya. Escalation was the word of the day, with foreign backers of both sides importing increasingly sophisticated weaponry amid a seemingly pointless UN arms embargo continuing fruitlessly.
European backers of Haftar’s LNA announced on August 10 a new initiative to increase Europe’s naval presence, monitoring arms shipments across the Mediterrean Sea. Observers saw this as a direct threat to Turkish support for the UN-recognized GNA. The initiative would still allow Egypt and the UAE to ship arms across the Egyptian border, which threatened to once again rebalance and extend the conflict.
But on August 21, both parliaments issued a call for a ceasefire in Libya, effective immediately. The GNA’s al-Sarraj issued a statement calling on “all military forces to immediately cease fire and all combat operations in all Libyan territories.” An LNA statement later that day followed the GNA’s announcement.
President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh Issa, who had called for Egyptian intervention in weeks prior, urged the LNA to adhere to the ceasefire. No statement came from LNA commander Khalifa Haftar himself. The absence of Haftar, and the fact that the speaker of his parliament made the announcement, might indicate there was a change in leadership within the LNA.
Haftar was last photographed on August 19 as he met with Egyptian Military Intelligence, which delivered a “relevant message” from Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The content of the message, and information on what happened to Haftar after the meeting, has not been disclosed as of yet.
Immediately after both sides of Libya’s bloody conflict declared the ceasefire, el-Sisi welcomed the announcements in a statement on Twitter. El Sisi called the development “an important step in achieving a political settlement and the aspiration of the Libyan people in restoring stability and prosperity in Libya.”
While the question remains over the whereabouts of Haftar, and his position in the LNA following today’s events, the ceasefire will likely receive a warm welcome from most people in Libya, exasperated with years of pointless and bloody fighting. One clear sticking point remains in the proposed status of Sirte. While the GNA announced it would be a demilitarized city, the LNA statement did not confirm it as such.
The current lull in violence will bring welcome relief to a country devastated through ever more intense foreign meddling. Whether all militias will comply with the ceasefire, and what this will mean for the large numbers of mercenaries in Libya, is still unclear. In particular, the potential withdrawal of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary contractor, would be a major sign of real deescalation.
For Libya, the ceasefire means a chance to restart its oil economy and hopefully rebuild after years of destruction. The coming days will show how much control both parliaments exercise over their militias and mercenaries, and whether foreign fighters will be willing to leave Libya in an organized manner. With hope in the air, much remains uncertain on what could be a momentous day for the Libyan people.