Libya Edges Closer to a Peace Deal Between Army, Rival Factions

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, January 19, 2015

Libya's army announced a ceasefire on Sunday, joining Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) in declaring a truce that the UN hailed as a "significant" step towards ending months of violence and armed conflicts between warring factions in the country.

"We declare a ceasefire from midnight Sunday," the army said, stressing however that it would continue to pursue "terrorists," as UN-brokered peace talks resume in Geneva this week.

The army also said it would monitor the situation on the ground "to prevent any change in front lines or transportation of weapons and ammunition," which it would consider a violation of the truce.

Soldiers "have been given the right to defend themselves if they come under fire," the statement added.

The UN's Libya mission welcomed the ceasefire as a "significant contribution" to the country's peace process and called on all parties to work with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to "ensure compliance" with the truce.

"UNSMIL urges the parties to ensure that the ceasefire applies to ground, sea and air operations as well as movement of armed personnel and vehicles," it said.

The UN mission said it would coordinate with both sides "regarding tackling any breaches" and that the truce would allow the flow of humanitarian aid to people displaced by fighting.

Armed forces spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mesmari said the decision was taken "in support of the Geneva talks" and stressed that the army keeps its distance from politics.

UN-brokered peace talks

On Friday, the Fajr Libya militia alliance said it had agreed to a ceasefire in the North African country on the condition rival factions respected the truce.

It also pledged to open up "safe passages to channel humanitarian aid," especially in Libya's battleground second city of Benghazi.

On Saturday, the commander of a militia from third city Misrata allied with Fajr Libya, Ahmed Hadiya, said his fighters would respect the ceasefire.

Fajr Libya did not take part in the first round of peace talks in Geneva last week, during which Libya's opposing factions agreed on a roadmap to form a unity government and to further discussions.

On Saturday the UN Security Council welcomed the Fajr Libya ceasefire, but threatened sanctions against anyone obstructing peace efforts.

"There can be no military solution to the crisis in Libya," the 15-member council said in a unanimous statement.

Libya has had two governments and parliaments competing for legitimacy since Fajr Libya seized the capital in August, installing its cabinet and forcing the government of recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani to the east.

Western powers, who backed the military uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, fear that extremists, who they armed and trained during the uprising, are seeking to exploit a power vacuum in the oil-producing nation.

Fighting in Libya has displaced tens of thousands since the summer and disrupted medical and health services. Conflict has caused frequent fuel, power and water shortages, increased food prices and damaged infrastructure.

One medic, asking not to be named, said on Sunday that an estimated 600 were killed in three months of heavy fighting between Libyan pro-government forces and militants in Libya's second-largest city Benghazi.

One hospital had 71 bodies in its morgue which had not been claimed by relatives, he added.

Backed by forces led by a former general Khalifa Haftar, army special forces in mid-October launched an offensive against militants in Benghazi, expelling them from the airport area and from several camps the army had lost during the summer.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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