The military commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, rejected a call made on Friday by the Government National Accord (GNA) for a ceasefire and a resume of national oil production. Haftar dismissed these calls, insisting that they were a “marketing” stunt of the national government. Rival forces are reportedly preparing to mobilize, and Ahmed Mismari, Haftar’s spokesperson, commented that the LNA is ready to respond to any attempts of attack in Sirte and Jufra.
Malik Traina, an Al-Jazeera representative based in Misrata, reflected that “Previously in any negotiations or any peace talks in Libya, Haftar was a very significant member and very involved in these kinds of talks– and he’s feeling sidelined now”. Traina continues, “If Haftar’s foreign backers stop supporting him, does this mean that the GNA will be able to make advances? Does this mean that Saleh and Al-Sarrej will be able to come to a peaceful agreement and bring about lasting peace in Libya? This remains to be seen.”
In response to Haftar’s statements, Libya’s High Council of State, an advisory board to the GNA, is refusing to engage in any kind of dialogue with Haftar. In a public statement, the High Council emphasized that the Libyan government needs to take control of all domestic affairs. “Any dialogue or agreement should be under the Libyan political agreement, which regulated the mechanism of dialogue to be only between elected bodies,” the statement continues.
Calls for peace through ceasefire are not just limited to the GNA. Aguila Saleh, the head of Libya’s Eastern-based parliament, issued a similar call for a ceasefire on Friday. Saleh has currently gained more influence compared to Haftar, which is likely a result of the support that the GNA received by the Turkish military that ultimately forced the LNA to retreat from Tripoli in June after a 14-month offense. Additionally, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, commented in a United Nations brief that “it is important that, whether it’s the Libyan National Army or others, the Government National Accord, that they all work together with the U.N. … to put a halt to the fighting for the good of the Libyan people.”
The polarization of the Eastern and Western groups is partially rooted in past conflicts. These factions, in some ways, exist as a remnant of rival political groups of the 2011 uprising that was ultimately responsible for killing former ruler Muammar Gaddafi. While these two groups are currently supported by different members of the Libyan population, they are also backed by different foreign supporters. Haftar is supported by Egypt, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates; while the GNA is currently supported by Turkey and Qatar. The involvement of other countries in what is already a complicated conflict at the domestic level is also likely contributing to the government’s desire to consolidate control over what happens within Libya’s borders.
The fighting has currently put the lives of 125,000 people living in and around Sirte at risk, according to the United Nations. The United Nations alone has reached 243,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance, and of these people, 60,000 are internally displaced and 58,000 are migrants and refugees. Though complicated, it is becoming clearer by the day that the consequences of the conflict are, for many Libyan citizens, very grave.
Currently, the United Nations Secretary-General supports peaceful attempts towards implementing long-lasting change, hoping that “the calls for a ceasefire will be respected immediately by armed forces from both sides and that its implementation will be taken up quickly within the U.N.-facilitated 5+5 Joint Military discussions”. While such discussions are unlikely to bring about immediate peace for Libya, it is clear that attempts need to begin before Libyan citizens are left to continue to suffer in and outside of their homes.
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