Forces battling for control of Libya’s capital agreed to a truce Saturday, on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, but a car bomb killed two UN staff in the eastern city of Benghazi. Military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces announced that they would implement a ceasefire, after the unity government conditionally accepted the truce for the three-day holiday which starts Sunday. Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has been fighting since early April to seize Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. The United Nations had called on both sides to commit to a humanitarian truce by midnight on Friday. Haftar’s spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari on Saturday announced “a halt to all military operations… in the suburbs of Tripoli”. Mesmari said the truce had gone into effect at 3:00 PM (1300 GMT) on Saturday and would last until the same time on Monday afternoon. The GNA had said late Friday it was keen to “ease the suffering of the citizens and allow rescue workers to accomplish their mission” and would accept “a humanitarian truce for Eid al-Adha”. But it listed several conditions, saying the ceasefire must be observed “in all combat zones, with a cessation of direct and indirect fire and movement of troops”. It also said the truce must include “a ban on flights and reconnaissance overflights” across the country’s entire airspace. The GNA also called on the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to “ensure the implementation of the truce and note any breaches”. Haftar’s spokesman said
Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter said in a meeting on Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron that he cannot work toward a cease-fire because he has no one with whom to negotiate. Hifter opened a military offensive on the Libyan capital of Tripoli in early April despite commitments to move toward elections in the North African country. Libya is divided between Khalifa Hifter, whose self-styled Libyan National Army controls the east and much of the south, and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who runs the U.N.-supported but weak government in Tripoli. During a more than hour-long closed door meeting, Macron asked Hifter to work toward a cease-fire and a return to the political process, according to a statement from Macron’s office. When the question of a cease-fire is put on the table, “the reaction of … Hifter is ‘with whom can I negotiate a ceasefire today?’ ” an official of the presidential Elysee Palace said. Hifter considers the Sarraj government is being eaten from within by armed militias and considers “it’s not for him (Hifter) to negotiate with representatives of these militias,” the official said. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the delicate talks and asked to remain anonymous. The closed-door meeting came two weeks after Macron hosted Libya’s struggling U.N.-backed prime minister, who has denounced Hifter’s offensive as an attempted coup. Macron’s office has expressed support for Sarraj. The official rejected claims that France is secretly backing Hifter, saying that France is trying “to create a dynamic” between
Eastern-based Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive in April on the capital Tripoli in the west that has plunged the oil-producing nation into a new bout of conflict.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has faced fierce resistance from forces loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, threatening fresh disruption to the OPEC state’s energy industry.
The renewed risk to Libyan output has supported oil prices that are already trading close to six-month highs.
As a major oil supplier to Europe and starting point for migrant flows to Italy, much is at stake if the country slips further into turmoil.