By Sami Zaptia.
London, 2 June 2020:
UNSMIL welcomed yesterday the acceptance by the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli and the Khalifa Hafter led Libyan National Army (LNA) of the resumption of talks on the ceasefire and associated security arrangements based on the draft agreement submitted by UNSMIL to the parties during the Joint Military Commission talks (5 + 5) (JMC) on 23 February 2020.
The military talks are a separate strand to the UNSMIL-brokered political and economic talks.
Domestically, the news comes on the back of indiscriminate shelling fell on a park in central Tripoli killing 5 and injuring 12 civilians on 31 May. It also comes on the back of the Tripoli government stating to French media that it will not stop fighting until all Libya is ”liberated” from Hafter’s forces and that it will not negotiate with Hafter as it sees him as an ”obstacle” to peace.
Hafter’s forces have been on the retreat in western Libya since the loss of the coastal towns of Surman and Sabrata in April, and more recently the loss of the strategic Witya airbase. His forces are on the defensive attempting to hold on to the disused Tripoli International Airport and a couple more locations in and around the Western mountains – with their last stronghold Tarhuna under pressure.
Coincidently or not, Hafter’s retreat has seen an increase in calls by international parties such as France, Russia and Egypt for a ceasefire and the return to talks.
In its statement, UNSMIL emphasized that the resumption of dialogue constitutes a response by the parties to the desire and calls of the overwhelming majority of Libyans who long for a return to a safe and dignified life as quickly as possible.
It said it hopes that the response of the parties coincides with cessation of hostilities and a reduction in the use of incitement and hate speech in order to reach a solution that restores the standing of the Libyan state and its institutions, as well as stability and well-being that the people deserve.
UNSMIL also hoped that all parties, Libyan and international alike, heed the desire of the Libyans to end the fighting. It said that it hopes that the resumption of the JMC talks will be marked by a return to calm and a humanitarian truce to pave the way for a lasting ceasefire agreement; enable the competent authorities to focus on addressing the repercussions and threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and facilitate the response of local and international agencies to urgent humanitarian needs.
It further called on the parties to empower their representatives in the negotiations to finalize the ceasefire agreement, a large part of which has been agreed upon in the previous two rounds. In the same context, the it called upon the states supportive of the parties to the conflict to respect the conclusions they endorsed at the end of the Berlin Conference, the numerous Security Council resolutions, particularly Resolution 2510 (2020) and those relevant to the UN arms embargo on Libya.
UNSMIL also called on those countries fuelling the conflict to definitively halt all forms of military support. It expressed its appreciation to Member States and regional organizations that worked for a successful return to military negotiations and towards a resumption of political negotiations to end the conflict in Libya. It said it hoped and expected that this support will continue during the upcoming JMC talks to ensure their success.
Finally, UNSMIL said it looks forward to starting the new round of the JMC negotiations via videoconference, in light of current circumstances and hopes that the same professional, serious and responsible spirit that characterized the first and second rounds in Geneva will prevail in these talks.