Libya ri­vals agree to a cease­fire


The Citizen (KZN) - - World - Tripoli

Both side stress that they will re­spond to any at­tack or ag­gres­sion.

Both sides in Libya’s con­flict agreed to a cease­fire that started early yes­ter­day fol­low­ing weeks of in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy and calls for a truce by power-bro­kers Rus­sia and Turkey.

The oil-rich north African coun­try has been wracked by bloody tur­moil since a Nato-backed up­ris­ing killed long-time dic­ta­tor Muam­mar Gaddafi in 2011.

Since April last year, the Tripoli-based, UN-recog­nised Govern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord (GNA) has been un­der at­tack from forces loyal to east­ern-based strong­man Khal­ifa Haf­tar, which days ago ad­vanced to take the strate­gic coastal city of Sirte.

Late on Satur­day Haf­tar forces an­nounced a cease­fire start­ing at the stroke of mid­night in line with a joint call by Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Vladimir Putin.

Early yes­ter­day, the head of the GNA, Fayez al-Sar­raj, also an­nounced an agree­ment to the cease­fire.

Sar­raj stressed the GNA’s “le­git­i­mate right ... to re­spond to any at­tack or ag­gres­sion” that may come from the other side – just as Haf­tar forces had warned of a “se­vere” re­sponse to any vi­o­la­tion by the “op­pos­ing camp”.

Ar­tillery fire could be heard shortly af­ter mid­night from the cen­tre of the cap­i­tal, be­fore quiet set­tled over the south­ern Tripoli sub­urb where pro-GNA forces have been re­sist­ing Haf­tar’s of­fen­sive launched on April 4 last year.

Er­do­gan and Putin had called for a cease­fire at a meet­ing on Wed­nes­day in Is­tan­bul, and Turkey on Satur­day asked Rus­sia to con­vince Haf­tar, who had ini­tially vowed to fight on, to re­spect it.

Ankara de­ployed mil­i­tary sup­port to the GNA in Jan­uary, while Rus­sia has been ac­cused of sup­port­ing pro-Haf­tar forces, which are also backed by the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt.

Europe and north Africa have launched a diplo­matic of­fen­sive to try to pre­vent Libya, with the in­creased in­volve­ment of in­ter­na­tional play­ers in its con­flict, from turn­ing into a “sec­ond Syria”.

Euro­pean gov­ern­ments are con­cerned that Is­lamist mil­i­tants and mi­grant smug­glers, al­ready highly ac­tive in Libya, will take fur­ther ad­van­tage of the chaos.

On Satur­day Putin and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel met in Moscow and called for in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to ad­dress the cri­sis in Libya. – AFP

Pic­ture: AFP

A man rows a boat in the Dal Lake dur­ing a snow­fall in Sri­na­gar in the Kash­mir Val­ley yes­ter­day.

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