Libyan rivals sign nationwide ceasefire agreement at UN ceremony

2020-10-20T100008Z_1926308221_RC2AMJ98AXJS_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA-SECURITY-UN

Libya’s warring parties signed an agreement on “a permanent ceasefire in all areas of Libya,” the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a Facebook post on Friday.

Following mediation led by UN envoy Stephanie Turco Williams this week, the Joint Military Commission reached 5 + 5, what the UN called an “important turning point towards peace and stability in Libya”.

Further details were not immediately available, but live video of the signing ceremony in Geneva was streamed on Facebook.

Libya is divided between a UN-backed government in the capital Tripoli and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are supported by a number of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

The country was thrown into chaos after the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that overthrew and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

“The road to a permanent ceasefire agreement was often long and difficult,” Williams said Friday, noting that there is “great work” to be done in the coming weeks to implement the commitments. She expressed hope that the agreement would succeed “in ending the suffering of the Libyans and allowing the displaced to return to their homes”.

On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions had agreed on issues “directly affecting the lives and welfare of the Libyan people”, citing agreements on free air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media and to help launch Libya’s vital oil industry.

Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements on the exchange of prisoners and on the opening of transit across the country’s divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade of powerful tribes allied with Khalifa Haftar, commander of the East Libyan National Army (LNA).

Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-backed National Agreement (GNA) government in the West. But his campaign collapsed in June.

Fighting has since come under international pressure on both sides to ward off an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s largest oil export terminals.

( Jowharwith AP, REUTERS)