Libya ceasefire eases armed conflict despite mutual accusations of violations: report

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PHOTO: Al Jazeera

A ceasefire in Libya initiated by Turkey and Russia saw a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes on Sunday, though both warring factions accused each other of violating the truce as skirmishes continued around the capital of Tripoli, Reuters reported.

Libya, which has been mired in turmoil since the toppling of strongman Muammar Gaddafi, has had two rival governments since 2014. The conflict between the forces of the two factions has wrecked the country’s economy, fueled migrant smuggling and militancy and disrupted oil supplies.

In the latest international attempt to stem the violence, the Turkish and Russian presidents had called for the ceasefire to start on Sunday, more than nine months into an offensive on Tripoli by the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by commander Khalifa Haftar.

Both the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the eastern-based LNA said they conditionally agreed to the truce.

From early Sunday, exchanges of fire could be heard in Tripoli’s Salaheddin and Ain Zara districts, though by the middle of the day clashes had abated.

There were no reports of drone or fighter jet strikes, which have been common in recent weeks as fighting around Tripoli escalated and the LNA took Sirte, a strategically important city midway along Libya’s coastline.

Any attempt to impose a lasting ceasefire will be hard to enforce because of the splintered nature of Libya’s military coalitions. The LNA has said it still intends to rid Tripoli of its armed rivals, and the GNA has demanded Haftar’s forces withdraw. Both sides refer to each other as militias.

Turkey’s defense ministry said it had observed that all sides were trying to abide by the ceasefire and that the situation was calm except for “one or two separate incidents.”

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul on Sunday, the Turkish presidency said, without giving details.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday welcomed the Libyan ceasefire but cautioned that the United Nations must lead the process of rebuilding the country.

“A ceasefire, yes it is a first step in the right direction, but what you need is a process for consolidation, for reconstruction and a government of unity. There is a long way to go. This has to be a UN-led process,” she told reporters after a meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

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