Libya's Haftar committed to signing ceasefire, says French presidency

Following his meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar travelled to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's forces will retreat by up to three kilometres, a spokesman said. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the eastern military commander of the Libyan National Army, has told the president of France that he will sign a ceasefire and abide by it if militias backed by the Tripoli government respect it, a French official said.

The Field Marshal met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to discuss illegal migration and terrorism, the LNA's General Command said.

On Tuesday, he held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who "stressed that there can be no military solution to this conflict and that for this reason a ceasefire and progress in the political process are necessary," according to a spokesperson for Germany's government.

On January 12, Libya's warring factions announced a ceasefire. Despite a peace conference being held in Berlin seven days later, violence has resumed.

Forces from the east and west were preparing for a long conflict as foreign weapons and troops flood in, eastern factions close oil ports and rival alliances wrangle over revenues from Africa’s largest petroleum reserves.

After the Berlin conference, breaches of an arms embargo increased. The UN denounced the broken embargo without naming who was to blame.

A key figure in mediating between Libya's various factions had been the UN's special envoy Ghassan Salame, but the Lebanese politician and academic stepped down last week citing health reasons. He is said to have brought key military, political and finance figures to the negotiating table.

The LNA led by Field Marshal Haftar and forces aligned with the Government of National Accord in Tripoli have been fighting for control of the capital since April last year.

Whilst the LNA made quick gains on the Tripoli area initially, their offensive has stalled on the outskirts of the city, often relying on drone strikes to further their progress.

Turkey has backed the GNA by sending military support, including Syrian rebels it backs, to Tripoli.

The LNA controls the east of Libya and large parts of the vast but sparsely-populated south. An array of forces opposed to Field Marshal Haftar controls western Libya including Tripoli and the powerful city-state of Misrata to the east of the capital.

The French official said there were no plans for Mr Macron to meet or speak to the head of the Tripoli government, Fayez Al Sarraj.

The official said the Field Marshal remained a key player in Libya.

“Haftar is one of the main actors on the Libyan political scene and must be taken into consideration,” the French presidential official said.

The standoff over oil is one of several factors that could prolong the almost year-long conflict over the capital. While Libya's most vital asset has often been a hostage to the country's instability since 2011, the recent shutdown is the most severe in a number of years.

The French official said Mr Macron had raised the issue of oil and moves to ensure the revenues serve all of the population and lead to blockades of ports being lifted.

But Field Marshal Haftar said it had nothing to do with his fighters. The oil shutdown that has lasted since January has led to nearly $3 billion in financial losses, Libya's National Oil Corporation said recently.

Libya's Mustafa Sanalla, Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (L) arrives for the 178th meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna, Austria, on March 6, 2020.  All eyes are on Russia at the gathering of OPEC countries and their allies, with the cartel hoping to convince Moscow to back drastic production cuts to counter the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. / AFP / ALEX HALADA
Libya's Mustafa Sanalla, Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (L), has warned the effects of the oil shutdown could last years. AFP

The NOC's chief, Mustafa Sanalla, recently warned that the technical and environmental effects of the blockades could be disastrous, corroding pipelines and causing leaks for years.

On Saturday, the GNA destroyed an ammunition depot belonging to forces loyal to the commander.

Mr Serraj, the head of the GNA, was in South Africa on Tuesday.