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Libya rival sides agree to sign permanent ceasefire deal: UN envoy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A general view of the talks between the rival factions in the Libya conflict at the United Nations offices in Geneva, Switzerland October 20, 2020 . (Photo by Reuters)

Libya’s rival sides have eventually agreed to sign a permanent ceasefire agreement in all areas, to bring an end to months of deadly fighting in the North African nation.

The two sides poised to sign an agreement to open air and land routes that connect all regions and cities in the country, said a United Nations spokeswoman on Friday.

She said the two sides have reached the “historic achievement” with a permanent ceasefire deal.

A signing ceremony was scheduled for Friday morning at the UN European headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva.

UN acting envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, will hold a press conference after the signing.

Williams has expressed concern that there are still “worrying developments,” such as Libya’s deteriorating socio-economic conditions.

“And, of course, the COVID pandemic is increasing exponentially in the country,” said added.

The country, which sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa, descended into chaos last year after the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) under rebel commander Khalifa Haftar moved toward Tripoli to seize the city, which was repelled by Libyan government forces.

The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.

Haftar forces were fighting to unseat the government with support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan.

But government forces have pushed them as far back as Sirte, on the Mediterranean coastline, with crucial help from Turkey.

In August, the rival administrations announced separately that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections, drawing praise from world powers.

After mediation led by Williams this week, the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission reached what the UN called an “important turning point towards peace and stability in Libya.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Williams said that she was “quite optimistic” that ongoing talks between the warring sides would lead to a lasting ceasefire.

“From what I've seen in the room in these direct talks, there is an air of seriousness and commitment,” she said.

She also urged the two parties “to solve all outstanding issues and forge a lasting cease-fire agreement.”

The parties agreed to initiate joint security arrangements, with a particular focus on the road for the land routes from Shuwerif to Sebha to Murzuq, from Abu Grein to Jufra, and for the coastal road from Misrata to Sirte and onwards to Ajdabiya.

Williams also stressed that what made these talks important is that “this will be a Libyan-owned solution.”

Libya initially plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. 

Ankara has repeatedly warned foreign players against “dangerous military adventure” in the oil-rich country, saying it would maintain support for the Libyan government.

Turkey made the warning after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said earlier this year that his country would take military action in Libya in direct support of the rebels.

An escalation in Libya could have risked igniting a direct conflict among the foreign powers that have poured in weapons and fighters in violation of an arms embargo.

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