By Sami Zaptia.
London, 24 February 2020:
A draft ceasefire agreement has been reached at the second round of the Libya military talks brokered by the UN at Geneva, UNSMIL reported today. The military talks are between the forces of the internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tripoli and forces led by Khalifa Hafter mainly based in eastern Libya.
UNSMIL reported that the second round of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) talks to reach a lasting ceasefire and to restore security to civilian areas concluded on 23 February in Geneva.
It reminded that the JMC is one of the three tracks which UNSMIL is working on, in addition to the economic and political tracks, in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2510 (2020) and which calls upon the two parties to reach a lasting ceasefire agreement.
It thanked the parties for the seriousness of purpose, goodwill, and spirit of high professionalism which characterized the discussions.
A draft ceasefire agreement to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas with the implementation of a joint monitoring mechanism under the auspices of UNSMIL and the JMC was prepared, it added.
UNSMIL said that the two parties agreed to present the draft agreement to their respective leaderships for further consultations and agreed to meet again in March to resume the discussions and complete the preparation of the Terms of Reference of the sub-committees in charge of the implementation of the agreement.
It renewed its call for both parties to fully abide by the current truce and the protection of the civilian population and properties and vital infrastructure.
It will be recalled on Tuesday 18 February the internationally recognized government had announced that it was pulling out of these talks.
The suspension come after their adversary, the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Hafter, continued to violate the agreed truce in the Tripoli fighting.
On Monday 17 February, for example, Mitiga airport, Tripoli’s only functioning airport, was attacked again causing it to suspend flights while projectiles landed in other parts of Tripoli. Markedly, Tripoli Port was hit on Tuesday 18 February at least twice – leading to deaths and casualties – at the time UNSMIL head Ghassan Salame was brokering the Libya military talks in Geneva and while U.S. Ambassador Norland was meeting with Hafter in eastern Libya.
In the statement announcing its withdrawal from the military talks, the Serraj government had said that the ongoing bombing of Tripoli port and other civilian sites was preplanned to create a crisis and instability in Libya. It further condemned Hafter’s appeasement by the international community and his blatant disregard for UN Security Council resolutions, the agreed truce and the agreed Berlin conference outcomes.
Citing its right to self-defence, the Serraj government said that there can be no peace under bombardment and that it would respond decisively to the truce violations at a time and place of its choosing.
However, the next day the internationally recognized Libyan government backtracked and reversed its decision to suspend its participation in the Geneva military talks.
It will be recalled that Khalifa Hafter and his allied forces launched an attack on Tripoli in April 2019 ostensibly to ‘‘liberate’’ Tripoli from ‘‘militias, Islamists and terrorists’’.
Meanwhile, Libya’s oil blockade has continued since 18 January with Libya’s state National Oil Corporation calling on the U.S. to intervene to bring the blockade to an end. The blockade, ostensibly called by eastern-based tribal leaders, is blamed by Tripoli squarely on Khalifa Hafter.