A ceasefire in Libya initiated by Turkey and Russia saw a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes, though both warring factions accuse each other of violating the truce as skirmishes continued around Tripoli.
Libya, mired in turmoil since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi, has had rival governments since 2014. Conflict between two factions wrecked the economy, fuelled migrant smuggling and militancy and disrupted oil supplies.
In the latest international attempt to stem the violence, the Turkish and Russian presidents called for a ceasefire to start on Sunday, more than nine months into an offensive on Tripoli by the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by commander Khalifa Haftar.
Both the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the eastern-based LNA conditionally agreed to the truce.
From early Sunday, exchanges of fire could be heard in Tripoli’s Salaheddin and Ain Zara districts, with clashes abating by the middle of the day.
There were no reports of drone or fighter strikes, common in recent weeks as fighting escalated and the LNA took Sirte.
Any attempt to impose a lasting ceasefire will be hard to enforce because of the splintered nature of Libya’s military coalitions. The LNA intends to rid Tripoli or its armed rivals and the GNA demands Haftar’s forces withdraw. Both sides refer to each other as militias.
“The (GNA) militias violated the truce on more than one front, with all types of weapons,” said LNA commander Al-Mabrouk Al-Gazawi.
The GNA said despite gunfire in the Salaheddin and Wadi Rabea areas “minutes” after the ceasefire was meant to start on Sunday and violations by “aggressor militias”, it renewed its commitment to the ceasefire.
Turkey’s defence ministry observed all sides were abiding by the ceasefire and the situation was calm except for “one or two separate incidents”.
GNA Prime Minister Fayez Serraj met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Sunday, the Turkey’s presidency said, without giving details.
FOREIGN AIR POWER
The conflict between is increasingly internationalised, with both sides depending largely on foreign air power. The LNA received backing from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and from Russian military contractors. Turkey backs the GNA and voted this month to allow a troop deployment to Libya.
Emadeddin Badi, a policy fellow at the European University Institute, said while there were “elements in both sides that don’t want a ceasefire”, the lull in air strikes “highlights Turkey and Russia jointly can influence the level of internationalisation of this conflict”.
Turkish officials indicated they would send military advisers and equipment before any troop deployment, but the Turkish parliament’s vote and its signing of a maritime deal with the GNA triggered rhetoric from eastern Libya and its allies, including Egypt.
In Cairo, the speaker of Libya’s pro-Haftar eastern parliament, Aguila Saleh, told Egypt’s parliament to oppose Turkey’s moves, “otherwise we might be compelled to invite Egyptian armed forces to intervene”.