UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

GENEVA-The Associated Press
UN says Libyan sides sign countrywide cease-fire deal

The United Nations said on Oct. 23 that the two sides in Libyan military talks had reached a "historic achievement" with a permanent cease-fire agreement across the war-torn North African country.

After mediation this week led by U.N. envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the U.N. called an "important turning point towards peace and stability in Libya."

Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Oct. 23 morning.

Libya is split between a U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult," Williams, a former U.S. State Department official, said in Arabic at the signing ceremony.

"Before us is a lot of work in the coming days and weeks in order to implement the commitments of the agreement," she said. "It is essential to continue work as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many problems due to this conflict facing the Libyan people."

"We have to give people hope of a better future," Williams added. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed "in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes."

Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation and a field commander for the U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli, said: "We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed ... We hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south."

"I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand," he said, warning about polarization by factions.

The meetings this week mark the fourth round of talks involving the Joint Military Commission under Williams' watch.

The Geneva-based military talks come ahead of a political forum in Tunisia in November. That forum aims to "generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections," the U.N. mission said.

On Oct. 21, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that "directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people," citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya's vital oil industry.

Libya's prized light crude has long featured in the country's civil war, with rival militias and foreign powers jostling for control of Africa's largest oil reserves.

Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country's divided territory. This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with military commander Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based forces.

Haftar's forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the U.N.-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.

Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya's major oil export terminals.