GENEVA — Libya’s two main warring factions agreed to a cease-fire on Friday, raising hopes for an end to years of bloody turmoil that have drawn in military forces from Russia, Turkey and other regional powers.
The two sides signed the agreement at the United Nations in Geneva at the end of a weeklong meeting of delegates from the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, which is based in the capital Tripoli, and the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Hifter and based in the country’s east.
The two sides agreed to a complete, countrywide and permanent agreement with immediate effect, said Stephanie Williams, the United Nations acting special envoy who was chairwoman of the most recent talks. She said it called for frontline forces to return to their bases and for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries within three months , a process that would be monitored by the United Nations.
“God willing, it will be the key to peace and security in all Libya,” Col. Ali Abushama, the head of the government delegation, said at the signing ceremony. “We have had enough suffering, enough division, enough bloodshed.”
Libya has a long history of failed peace initiatives and the reaction of the foreign sponsors that have driven the long-running war, on both sides of the conflict, will be crucial to the success of the cease-fire. Ms. Williams said the agreement will be sent immediately to the U.N. Security Council, stressing the critical importance of international backing.
The former U.N. envoy, Ghassan Salame, quit his job earlier this year, partly in exasperation at the failure of the international community to provide meaningful support for peace efforts in Libya.
Mr. Salame has been vocal about his disillusionment with the open meddling by some foreign countries in Libya, such as Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, combined with the failures of Western countries like the United States, France and Britain to meaningfully counter that meddling.
The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, welcomed the truce agreement as a “fundamental step” toward ending the conflict.
“I congratulate the parties for putting the interest of their nation ahead of their differences,” he said.
Mr. Guterres, who for the past seven months has been calling for cease-fires around the world to help contain the Covid-19 pandemic, expressed hope that combatants in other conflicts — in the Middle East, Afghanistan and more recently between Armenia and Azerbaijan — would use the “inspiration of the Libyan agreement” to follow the same path.
The latest agreement comes four months after Mr. Hifter’s forces were forced into a humiliating retreat from their positions around the capital, Tripoli, which they had mounted a bitter, 15-month campaign to capture. Although the assault ended in failure, it drew powerful foreign actors ever deeper in the war for control of the oil-rich North African…
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