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Libya’s warring sides agree permanent ceasefire at Geneva talks
Peace talks aimed at ending almost a decade of chaos in Libya reached agreement on a permanent ceasefire on Friday. Five senior officers from the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and five from the opposition Libyan National Army (LNA) signed the deal after talks mediated by Stephanie Williams, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
“Today is a good day for the Libyan people,” Williams told a press conference in Geneva. “At 11.15 am this morning here in the UN headquarters in Geneva, the two Libyan delegations to the 5+5 Joint Military Commission talks signed a complete, countrywide, and permanent ceasefire agreement with immediate effect.”
The oil-rich country has been divided and beset by conflict since the overthrow of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and the two rival administrations have effectively split the country, with the GNA holding Tripoli and the LNA controlling large areas of the east and laying siege to the capital for months.
“The parties agreed that all military units and armed groups on the frontlines shall return to their camps. This shall be accompanied by the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from all Libyan territories -- land, air and sea -- within a maximum period of three months from today. The ceasefire does not apply to UN-designated terrorist groups,” Williams said.
The ceasefire also followed a call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for ceasefires in conflicts globally during the global Coronavirus pandemic, she added.
The parties involved needed the international community and the UN Security Council to support the agreement, she said, including by respecting the principle of non-interference in Libya’s internal affairs.
“We need to appeal to countries involved, particularly those who are interfering directly in the conflict, particularly those who are blatantly violating the arms embargo, that it is time to listen to the Libyans themselves. Libya is for the Libyans. And they now want to come together to rebuild their country, to end this long state of crisis and division, to rebuild their institutions. It is incumbent on the international community to support them in this effort.”
The parties to the deal also agreed to start identifying and categorising members of armed groups and reintegrating Libyan nationals into state institutions, while foreign fighters from both sides should leave within three months.
“The issue of the presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries is not an issue that is monopolised by one side of this conflict. There are mercenaries from I would say seven, eight, maybe nine countries on the ground. So it is incumbent on all those responsible for the insertion of mercenaries into Libya, within the calendar that has been agreed to by the Libyans themselves, to withdraw these forces and to respect and implement the will of the Libyan parties.”
The peace deal opens the way for a resumption of flights between Tripoli and Benghazi, and Libya’s oil installations at Ras Lanuf and Sidra should be able to resume production in the very near future.
It also includes measures to curb hate speech and incitement of violence, to facilitate the exchange of detainees, and to support restructuring of petroleum facilities guards. Political talks are expected to get underway in Tunis in the first week of November, Williams said.
Broad consultations with youth, women, mayors, political forces and representatives of minority communities had shown that Libyans were keen for change, she said.
“What I hear most clearly is a call for elections. Libyans want elections. Elections are the single most important means through which they can reassert their sovereignty and destiny. Free, fair, democratic elections where they are choosing their representatives, whether it’s the parliament or for the presidency. They would like to end the long transitional period that the country has suffered from. They are right to be sceptical about the introduction of another transitional period.”