Libya’s internationally-recognized government has announced a nationwide ceasefire and called for demilitarization in the strategic city of Sirte, which is held by strongman Khalifa Haftar’s rebels.
The Tripoli-based government said in a statement on Friday that Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj had “issued instructions to all military forces to immediately cease fire and all combat operations in all Libyan territories.”
The government also called for an end to a blockade imposed by the rebels on oil facilities in eastern Libya.
The rebels started the blockade on the oil facilities in January, when they managed to take control of oil fields and export terminals in the east.
In a separate statement, the speaker of the eastern-based pro-rebel parliament, Aguila Saleh, also called for a cessation of hostilities.
There was no immediate comment from Haftar or his rebel militia.
But the United Nations Support Mission in Libya welcomed the two statements and urged the expulsion of all foreign forces and mercenaries from the North African country.
The developments offered hope for a de-escalation of the conflict in Libya. Most recently, Sirte was becoming a flashpoint of the conflict, as the two rival seats of power in Libya mobilized around the city.
Sirte fell into the rebel’s hands in January. The Libyan government vowed to retake control.
The foreign patrons of both the government and the rebels also focused their efforts on the city.
Two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya since 2014, namely the internationally-recognized government run by Prime Minister Sarraj, and the parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s rebels.
The rebels have been 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.
Libya first plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising backed by a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.