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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Tripoli militias reach ceasefire agreement 

But it is unclear when and if the ceasefire will come into effect 

A UN-brokered ceasefire on Tuesday was announced in Tripoli between militia leaders, as fierce fighting raged in the country's capital.

But as the wider Libya peace process looks to have all but collapsed, it is unclear when and if Tuesday's agreement will come into effect. News of the ceasefire came in a Tweet, after talks between militia leaders hosted by UN Special Representative for the Secretary General Ghassan Salame.

"Under the auspices of SRSG @GhassanSalame a ceasefire agreement was reached + signed today to end all hostilities, protect civilians, safeguard public and private property + reopen Meitiga Airport in #Tripoli #Libya”.

As leaders gathered at an undisclosed location in the capital, the city streets echoed to the sound of artillery and rocket fire as militias battled each other in several southern districts. The UN said of the talks: “The top priorities are a cessation of hostilities, protecting civilians + safeguarding public and private property.”

However, it is uncertain whether the truce will last. A similar truce agreed last Thursday collapsed within hours, and as there are no regular police or army units in Tripoli, there is no means of compelling the militias to honour the ceasefire deal.

Beyond the desire for a ceasefire the UN also wants to salvage a Libya peace process many think is doomed.

That process, backed by the UN, began in May last year, when the prime minister of Tripoli’s UN-backed Government of National Accord Fayez al Serraj met in Abu Dhabi with the army commander of east Libya’s rival Interim Government, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.

Both men met again two months later in Paris to agree a ceasefire.

At the July 2017 Paris talks the host, France’s president Emmanuel Macron, expressed optimism: “There is political legitimacy. That is in the hands of Mr Al Serraj. There is military legitimacy - that of commander Haftar,” said President Macron. “They have decided to act together.”

With UN backing the two men met again in Paris in May this year.

This time the Field Marshall, whose Libya National Army (LNA) is the country’s most powerful military formation, was joined by his ally Aguila Saleh, president of the elected parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), with Mr Al Serraj supported by Khaled Al Mishri, head of the High Council of State, an advisory body of the GNA.

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These second Paris talks saw both governments confirm a ceasefire and agree to hold elections on December 10 this year.

Since then, relations have worsened.

In June a west Libya militia led by warlord Ibrahim Jathran briefly captured key eastern oil ports before the LNA recaptured them. The LNA accused the GNA of using oil revenues to finance militias such as Mr Jathran’s.

The bad blood saw Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte declare on August 8 that the time was not yet right for elections: “We are in no hurry to have the vote tomorrow, or in November or in December.”

Mr Conte will likely view the current fighting as proof that Libya is in no position to hold an election while militias hold Tripoli.

The good news for the UN is that the current fighting is not between the two governments: The LNA and Interim Government have stayed aloof from the Tripoli fighting. The bad news is that this fighting demonstrates that militias hold sway in the capital, making the prospect of an election unlikely. But the UN worries that to abandon the elections plan will condemn Libya to extended chaos.

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