January 11, 2020 / 10:00 PM / 6 days ago

Libyan forces loyal to Haftar announce ceasefire, GNA agrees to truce

BENGHAZI (Reuters) - Libyan eastern forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar announced on Saturday a ceasefire in the western region, which includes the capital Tripoli, starting 00:01 a.m. on Sunday (22:01 GMT) and the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) agreed to the truce.

Since April, Libyan National Army forces loyal to Haftar have been waging a campaign to take Tripoli, where they are battling forces aligned with the GNA.

In a statement posted online early on Sunday, the Tripoli based GNA said: “In response to the Turkish president and the Russian president’s call for a ceasefire, the head of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord announces a ceasefire starting 00:00 on Jan. 12.”

While the LNA had on Thursday rebuffed a call by Turkey and Russia for a ceasefire in a conflict that is drawing increasing foreign involvement and concern, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a video statement late on Saturday that the LNA accepted a truce in the west “provided that the other party abides by the ceasefire.”

He warned that “any breach will be met with a harsh response”.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) welcomed the truce and urged the warring parties “to strictly abide by the ceasefire and make a room for peaceful efforts to address all disputes through a Libyan-Libyan dialogue”.

Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA headed by Fayez al-Serraj, while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside the eastern forces.

A senior GNA official said on Thursday that it welcomed any credible ceasefire proposal but had a duty to protect Libyans from Haftar’s offensive.

Any ceasefire will likely be hard to uphold after a recent escalation in fighting around Tripoli and the strategic coastal city of Sirte and given the fractious, loose nature of Libya’s military alliances.

Forces loyal to Haftar said this week they had taken control of Sirte in a rapid advance preceded by air strikes.

Earlier on Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Libyan peace talks will be held in Berlin, adding that Libya’s warring parties would need to play a major role to help find a solution.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Hesham Abdul Khalek; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis

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