Libya's al-Serraj, Haftar commit to ceasefire at talks in France

Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and eastern commander Khalifa Haftar  committed to a conditional ceasefire and to elections in a joint declaration after talks near Paris

Emmanuel Macron (centre) with Sarraj (L) and Haftar as they shake hands after talks aimed at easing tensions
Emmanuel Macron (centre) with Sarraj (L) and Haftar as they shake hands after talks aimed at easing tensions

Libya’s two main rival leaders have agreed to call a ceasefire and hold elections early next year after a meeting near Paris hosted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

"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 rival leaders said after talks.

Macron said Libya’s UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, and Khalifa Haftar – the military strongman whose forces control large tracts of land in the east of the country – had displayed “historic courage” at the talks outside Paris on Tuesday.

"The cause of peace has made a lot of progress today," Macron told reporters after al-Serraj and Haftar shook hands, smiling, in front of cameras. "The Mediterranean (region) needs this peace."

On paper, the agreement represents a step towards a political settlement to end years of violence – but previous peace deals since the 2011 fall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi have not been honoured, and the absence of a specific date for proposed new elections will be seen as a diplomatic disappointment.

The ceasefire does not cover efforts either by Haftar or Sarraj militias to counter terrorism, a phrasing that will leave both sides free to interpret legitimate targets. It is also contingent on Sarraj’s ability to persuade all Tripoli’s powerful militias, many opposed to his rule, to lay down their arms, with many doubting they will do so.

The newly appointed UN envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, chaired the talks, but Macron made a statement at the end insisting that “civil war in Libya is not inevitable.”

The French initiative has caused some consternation in Italy, which had previously seen Libya as its diplomatic preserve, partly due to its colonial past in Libya and large current oil interests.

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