Libya’s Tripoli gov’t announces cease-fire, calls for demilitarization of Sirte

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Libya’s UN-supported government on Friday announced a cease-fire across the country and called for demilitarizing the strategic city of Sirte, which is controlled by rival forces, The Associated Press reported.

In a separate statement Aguila Saleh, speaker of the rival east-based House of Representatives, also called for a cease-fire. The announcements came amid fears of an escalation in the more than 9-year-old conflict.

Both administrations called for an end to an oil blockade imposed by the camp of military commander Khalifa Haftar since earlier this year. Haftar is an ally to the parliament speaker. They also called for oil revenues, the country’s main source of revenue, to flow into the bank account of the National Oil Corporation outside Libya.

Powerful tribes in eastern Libya loyal to Haftar closed export terminals and choked off major pipelines at the start of the year. That was aimed at pressuring their rivals in the Tripoli-based government.

Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Government of National Accord in the capital Tripoli, also announced parliamentary and presidential elections would be held in March.

The development comes amid international pressure and fears of a new escalation in the chaotic proxy war, as rival sides mobilize for a battle over Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil export terminals, which are under Haftar’s control.

Both statements called for demilitarizing the city of Sirte and the Jufra area in central Libya, and a joint police force to be responsible for security there.

There was no immediate comment from Haftar’s army, but Haftar agreed to an Egyptian initiative in June that included a cease-fire.

The UN Support Mission in Libya welcomed both statements and called for the expulsion of all foreign forces and mercenaries in Libya. Both sides of the conflict are supported by thousands of mercenaries.

The chaos in the oil-rich country has worsened in recent months as foreign backers increasingly intervene, despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.

Haftar is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Turkey, a bitter rival of Egypt and the UAE in a broader regional struggle over political Islam, is the main patron of the Tripoli forces, which are also backed by the wealthy Gulf state of Qatar.

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