Warring Libya rivals sign truce, but tough political talks ahead

Representatives of Libya’s two rival factions shake hands after signing a ‘permanent’ cease-fire agreement following the five-day talks at the UN. (AFP)
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Updated 24 October 2020

Warring Libya rivals sign truce, but tough political talks ahead

  • KSA hopes new era will achieve security, sovereignty and stability for country and its people

JEDDAH: Libya’s warring factions signed a permanent cease-fire agreement on Friday, but any lasting end to years of chaos and bloodshed will require wider agreement among myriad armed groups and the outside powers that support them.

Acting UN Libya envoy Stephanie Williams said the cease-fire would start immediately and all foreign fighters must quit Libya within three months.

As a first commercial passenger flight in more than a year crossed front lines from Tripoli to the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday, Williams noted Libya’s “fraught” recent history, one of the numerous broken truces and failed political solutions.

“But we shouldn’t let the cynics win,” she said, hailing both sides for their “courage” in agreeing a cease-fire and saying they deserved international support.

Friday’s agreement was reached after the Government of National Accord (GNA) in June beat back Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) from its 14-month assault on the capital.

Since then, frontlines have stabilized near the central coastal city of Sirte and the LNA has ended its eight-month blockade of Libyan oil output, which was strangling state finances on both sides.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • First commercial flight in more than a year crosses frontlines from Tripoli to Benghazi.
  • Libya’s National Oil Corp. lifts force majeure on exports from ports of Es Sider, Ras Lanuf.
  • US terms agreement a major step forward and says all foreign fighters must now leave Libya.
  • Both sides have deployed fighters from Syria, Sudan, Chad and European mercenaries.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the “Kingdom’s aspiration for the agreement to pave the way for the success of the understandings on the political and economic tracks, thus contributing to the beginning of a new era that achieves security, peace, sovereignty and stability for Libya and its brotherly people.”

There was caution inside Libya too. “We all want to end the war and destruction. But personally I don’t trust those in power,” said Kamal Al-Mazoughi, 53, a businessman sitting in a Tripoli cafe. “If there is no force or mechanism to apply this on the ground ... this deal will only be ink on paper,” said Ahmed Ali, 47, in Benghazi.

Key details on implementing the cease-fire, including monitoring the departure of foreign fighters and merging armed groups, have been left to subcommittees in future talks.

Both sides have deployed thousands of foreign fighters, including Syrians, Sudanese, Chadians and European mercenaries brought in by Russia’s Wagner group. 

Meanwhile, political talks scheduled in Tunisia early next month, with a view to holding national elections eventually, will need to reach agreement on historically elusive issues and overcome widespread mistrust. The US said all foreign fighters must now leave. “This agreement is a major step forward toward realizing the shared interests of all Libyans in de-escalation, stability and the departure of foreign fighters,” said a statement issued by the US Embassy in Libya.

“We urge internal and external actors now to support good-faith implementation of the agreement.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this “is a fundamental step toward peace and stability in Libya. “Too many people have suffered for too long. Too many men, women and children have died as a result of the conflict.”

Libya’s National Oil Corp. (NOC) has lifted force majeure on exports from the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, it said, adding that output would reach 800,000 barrels per day within two weeks and 1 million bpd in four weeks.

Al Waha Oil Co, the NOC company that runs Es Sider, said the port would start operating again on Saturday with the first tanker expected within 48 hours.


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