Libyan factions sign ‘permanent’ ceasefire, Erdogan casts doubt

“Today is a good day for the Libyan people,” said UN acting envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams.
Friday 23/10/2020
Head of the LNA delegation A. Amhimmid Mohamed Alamami (L) shakes hands with head of the GNA military delegation Ahmed Ali Abushahma (R) after signing an agreement for a ceasefire in Libya during the fourth round of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission talks, in Geneva, October 23. (DPA)
Head of the LNA delegation A. Amhimmid Mohamed Alamami (L) shakes hands with head of the GNA military delegation Ahmed Ali Abushahma (R) after signing an agreement for a ceasefire in Libya, in Geneva, October 23. (DPA)

GENEVA--Libya’s two rival factions signed a “permanent” ceasefire agreement Friday after five days of talks at the United Nations, which hailed the move as a moment that will go down in history.

“Today is a good day for the Libyan people,” said Stephanie Williams, the UN’s acting envoy to the troubled North African country, where the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has been battling a rival administration based in the east and dominated by the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

“At 11:15 am (0915 GMT) this morning here at the UN headquarters in Geneva, the two Libyan delegations… signed a complete, countrywide and permanent ceasefire agreement with immediate effect,” she said.

“The agreement was facilitated by the United Nations and we signed it as witnesses,” she told a news conference in the Swiss city.

Libya has been wracked by conflict for nearly a decade since the overthrow and killing of long time ruler Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.

Since then, the North African country has been dominated by armed groups and militant militias, riven by local conflicts and divided between the two bitterly opposed administrations.

Acting UN Envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams (L) speaks during the fourth round of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission talks, in Geneva, October 23. (DPA)
Acting UN Envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams (L) speaks during the fourth round of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission talks, in Geneva, October 23. (DPA)

But hopes for a solution have risen after the two warring factions in August separately announced they would cease hostilities.

The UN-sponsored talks took place in the format of a 5+5 Joint Military Commission: five delegates from each side attend.

 ‘For the sake of Libya’ 

The breakthrough was announced on Friday at a signing ceremony that was streamed live on the Facebook page of the UN’s Libya mission.

“The 5+5 Joint Military Commission talks in Geneva today culminate in a historic achievement as Libyan teams reach a permanent ceasefire agreement across Libya,” it said.

“This achievement is an important turning point towards peace and stability in Libya.”

Delegates, wearing masks, stood before signing the agreement documents at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Williams said it was “a moment that will go down in history.”

“You have met for the sake of Libya, for your people in order to take concrete steps to put an end to their suffering,” she said.

“Nobody can love Libya as much as you do,” said Williams, who heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

Since Qaddafi’s ouster in 2011, rival power centres and a myriad of militias have vied for control of the country.

The capital Tripoli in the west is held by the GNA, while a parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk is backed by the LNA.

 Work ahead 

Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019 but was pushed back early this year as pro-GNA forces received crucial support from Turkey, including military personnel and thousands of merecenaries.

Fighting has since stalled around the central coastal city of Sirte, Qaddafi’s hometown.

On Tuesday, the second day of the talks, Williams had said that Libya’s rival factions had agreed to maintain a lull in fighting and open internal land and air routes.

“What you have accomplished here is a crucial sign for Libya and the Libyan people,” she said on Friday.

“I am hopeful that future generations of Libyans will consider today’s agreement as a first, critical, courageous step to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Libyan crisis, that has gone on for too long.”

Williams said there was a lot of work ahead in the coming weeks in order to implement the commitments but it was essential to do so as quickly as possible.

“The road was long and difficult at times. Your patriotism was your way forward and you were able to reach a ceasefire agreement,” she said.

“I hope that this agreement will help put an end to the suffering of the Libyan people and we hope it will allow the displaced and refugees inside and outside the country to return to their homes and to live in peace and safety.”

Libya's neighbours
Libya's neighbours

 Erdogan’s doubts 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country plays an important military and political role in Libya in support of the Islamist-dominated GNA, cast doubt on whether the ceasefire will hold.

He said he “hoped” that the sides in the Libya conflict will abide by the ceasefire which they signed, but “its reliability does not seem too achievable to me.”

“Time will show how lasting it will be,” Erdogan told reporters after Libya’s warring sides signed a permanent ceasefire deal on Friday.

It is not yet clear if Turkey will back the ceasefire or opt instead for a spoiler role.