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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Libya rivals agree to ceasefire deal in Paris

Fayez Al Sarraj, prime minister of UN-backed Government of National Accord, and Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, commander of forces aligned to a rival administration, agree to work towards elections, according to a draft statement released ahead of a meeting in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj attend a meeting for talks over a political deal to help end Libya’s crisis in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Paris, France, July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
French President Emmanuel Macron and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj attend a meeting for talks over a political deal to help end Libya’s crisis in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Paris, France, July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

A Libyan ceasefire deal was announced at talks in Paris on Tuesday between Fayez Al Sarraj, prime minister of the UN-backed government in Tripoli, and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, chief of the Libyan National Army.

A statement from the talks, which were hosted by France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, said: “We commit to a ceasefire and to refrain from any use of armed force for any purpose that does not strictly constitute counter-terrorism.”

The Paris talks are a new stage in a process initiated by the UAE in Abu Dhabi in May, when Emirati and Egyptian diplomats convinced Mr Al Sarraj and Field Marshal Haftar to have a face-to-face meeting.

Under the terms of the Paris deal, both Libyan leaders pledge support for a road map that will create a unity government followed by elections as soon as possible. Details are to be agreed in further talks supervised by the UN’s newly-appointed special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame.

The ceasefire pledge offers the prospect of an end to three years of civil war that has left more than 20,000 dead and 400,000 displaced. The lack of central government has seen militant groups, including ISIL, establish bases in the country, while migrant smugglers operate with impunity.

The road map calls for adhesion to the previously drafted Libya Political Agreement, which sets out a complicated governing formula with power to be shared by Mr Al Sarraj and the elected House of Representatives parliament in Tobruk, which currently opposes him and supervises Field Marshal Haftar’s Libyan National Army.

If the Tobruk parliament agrees to the new deal, Mr Al Sarraj’s government will supervise the dissolution of Tripoli’s powerful militias and hand the capital to regular police and army forces.

Previous peace initiatives have crumbled amid divisions between Libya’s many competing factions, however. The task for both Mr Al Sarraj and Field Marshal Haftar will now be persuading other Libyan parties to go ahead with the new deal.

A key aspect of the agreement will be support from the international community, but there are reports that some of this support is fraying, with Italian leaders annoyed that Rome officials were not invited to the Paris talks.

Italy has headed its own Libyan peace initiative, and Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano told his country's La Stampa newspaper on Tuesday that the French-UAE talks may complicate Rome’s separate peace process. “There are too many open questions on Libya, too many initiatives, we need to combine,” he said.

Diplomats hope the Paris deal can head off a new round of war. Following his forces' capture of the eastern city of Benghazi earlier this month, Field Marshal Haftar announced his intention to move on to Tripoli by the end of the year.

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