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The New Arab

Libya's warring factions agree to formal ceasefire at UN talks in Geneva

Under the deal, military representatives will monitor the return of thousands of displaced civilians [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 February, 2020

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Libya's rival military leaders have yet to give the deal the go-ahead, as heavy fighting continue in the capital and across the country.
Libya's warring factions turned a shaky ceasefire into a formal deal in UN talks in Geneva on Monday,
amid a report that four Egyptian soldiers fighting for warlord Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) were killed in clashes in Tripoli earlier this week.

A source who spoke to the The New Arab's Arabic-language sister-site said that the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) killed four Egyptian troops along with other fighters loyal to Haftar on Thursday, with two of the soldier's bodies currenty held by government authorities.

An Egyptian officer was also detained as a prisoner of war, according to the source, raising the total number of officers held by the GNA authorities to five.

The UAE and Egypt - as well as France and Russia - support Haftar, which have escalated their attacks on the Libyan capital in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Haftar's forces targeted Tripoli's civilian seaport, narrowly missing a highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas tanker.

The embattled Tripoli administration, led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and now in control of a shrinking corner western Libya, has relied on Turkey for military aid.

On Monday, Al-Sarraj branded Haftar a "war criminal" at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, in the same building where peace talks are took place.

"Children have lost their right to education due to shelling and the closure of schools because of the attacker and those who fund the attacker and provide weapons, these must be held accountable," Sarraj told the forum.

The GNA nearly withdrew from the negotiations aimed at ratifying a ceasefire in Tripoli last week, which Haftar has been trying to capture since he launched an assault on the capital in March 2019.

After being persuaded by a UN envoy to stay, Al-Sarraj's government maintained that no deal was possible while Haftar's forces remain in place.

"Our delegation is insisting that forces of Haftar have to withdraw from where they are now," Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Syala told journalists. 

Later on Monday, however, the UN mission in Libya said that the country's opposing sides had reached a formal deal, AP report.

As the UN-mediated talks between rival military leaders ended in Geneva, both agreed "to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas", a UN statement said.

Military representatives, with support from the UN mission in Libya, will monitor the return of thousands of displaced civilians.

Yet the preliminary draft awaits the go-ahead from leaders of the country's warring parties, a process which is likely to drag on for some time.

Representatives have pledged to meet again in Geneva next month to hammer out details of the deal's implementation.

The current ceasefire was brokered in January by Russia and Turkey, but Libyan leaders never signed a pledge, let alone met face-to-face.

A high-profile international summit in Berlin followed, where world powers with vested interests in the oil-rich North African country promised to push for the ceasefire and uphold a widely flouted arms embargo.

Yet foreign backers continue to pour weapons into the country, according to the UN, defying diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, with near-daily violations of the sham truce.

Turkey, which has long trained and funded opposition fighters in Syria, has sent hundreds to support the Tripoli-based government.

Foreign Minister Siala acknowledged the deployment of Syrian fighters on Monday, a subject that has for months been shrouded in rumour and secrecy.

Some of the fighters have links to extremist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

"There are some Syrians" repelling Haftar's offensive, he said.

"They have Turkish nationalities and are carrying Turkish passports."

Offers of citizenship to Syrian recruits have helped entice them to fight in Libya, allowing Ankara to mitigate the risks to its own forces, while at the same time establishing a sphere of influence in the eastern Mediterranean and securing rights to off-shore oil and gas exploration, according to analysts.

In a speech last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey had suffered "a few" fatalities in Libya but did not specify whether they were among Turkish or Syrian fighters.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Read more: Fighter loyal to warlord Libya's Haftar kill 16 Turkish soldiers

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