UN Security Council urges quick Libya ceasefire

The United Nations wants to shore up a fragile truce which went into effect this month

Fighters of a military battalion loyal to Libyan General Khalifa Haftar sit during the morning assembly in the eastern city of Benghazi on December 18, 2019. (Photo by Abdullah DOMA / AFP)
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The United Nations Security Council has called on Libya's warring sides to quickly reach a ceasefire that would pave the way for a political process aimed at ending conflict in the oil-rich state.

The UNSC meeting on Tuesday followed a weekend Libya summit held in Berlin, which resulted in the formation of a military commission to define ways of consolidating a cessation of hostilities.

The commission is to be made up of five members each from the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and its opponents loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

"The members of the Security Council urged the Libyan parties to engage constructively in the five + five military commission in order to conclude a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible," the Council said.

The North African country has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi and toppled his regime.

Since April last year the GNA in Tripoli has fought back against a Libyan National Army (LNA) offensive led by Field Marshal Haftar.

The day before the international conference, forces loyal to the LNA commander blocked oil exports from Libya's main ports in protest at Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up the GNA in Tripoli.

The military commission is expected to meet in the coming days, according to the UN, tasked with turning an existing fragile ceasefire into a permanent truce as requested by the international leaders in Berlin.

The ceasefire was co-sponsored by Russia and Turkey and has broadly held since it went into effect on January 12.

The weekend summit was attended by the presidents of Russia, Turkey, France and Egypt, as well as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN chief Antonio Guterres.

GNA leader Fayez Al Sarraj and Field Marshal Haftar were also there but refused to meet. The conference failed to get the two rivals to commit to a permanent truce.

At the summit the main countries concerned promised to no longer interfere in Libyan affairs and to respect an arms embargo imposed in 2011 but which has been violated.

At the end of the Security Council meeting, Mr Guterres told reporters that "there's still a long way to go" but said truce violations have not been widespread.

"We need to move to a ceasefire, and from the ceasefire, we need to move to a real political process and we are not yet there."