The two main conflict parties in Libya signed a country-wide ceasefire agreement on Friday in Geneva, days before a new round of political talks to unify the war-torn country.
The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and another delegation representing the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) reached a “complete, country-wide permanent ceasefire agreement with immediate effect,” UN Libya Envoy, Stephanie Williams announced.
The so-called “5+5 military commission” with five officers representing each side was set up after a January 19 conference in Berlin to negotiate an agreement for a long-term ceasefire.
In the fourth round of the military negotiations that began on Monday, both sides also agreed that foreign military forces and mercenaries are set to leave Libya.
All Libyan military units are set to return from the front lines to their camps.
The two sides also agreed to form joint operations for policing and for a limited military force, according to Williams.
“I hope that this agreement will put an end to the suffering of the Libyan people,” Williams told military envoys representing Prime Minister Fayez Serraj’s government and the LNA of military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
The two delegations “have managed to achieve what all Libyans hope for, to end bloodshed and spread peace and security among Libyans,” said the head of the LNA delegation, A. Amhimmid Mohammed Alamami.
Ahmad Ali Abushahma, the head of the GNA delegation, said the agreement would “end bloodshed inside Libya and halt armed conflict, and God willing, be the reason for security and stability inside Libyan territories,”
“Enough suffering, enough blood and enough divisions,” he added.
Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Gaddafi and has become a battleground for rival proxy forces that has drawn in foreign powers.
Turkey is the main backer of the UN-recognized Tripoli government of Serraj and has sent military personnel and equipment to back it against the rival LNA forces.
The GNA and Turkey signed agreements last year on military and security cooperation and maritime boundaries.
Meanwhile, Haftar is backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Reports suggest Haftar also receives military support, though so far, only Egypt has said publicly that it would send troops to Libya if the Turkish-backed forces crossed the strategic city of Sirte towards Libya’s eastern border.
Earlier this year, a UN internal report said hundreds of mercenaries from a Russian paramilitary security firm have been fighting on Haftar’s side.
Williams did not name any countries but said that mercenaries from seven to nine countries are operating in Libya.
All outside countries must withdraw their forces “to respect and implement the will of the Libyan parties,” the US diplomat added.
The truce was reached ahead of Libyan political talks that start in a preparatory phase next week. In-person meetings are set to start in Tunis on November 9.
The aim of the political track is to agree on a unified governance framework and arrangements for elections.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cast doubt on the credibility of the ceasefire deal, saying it was not agreed at the highest levels, but by lower-level officials.
It also remains to be seen if mercenaries such as the Russian Wagner Group would withdraw within the stipulated three-month period, Erdogan said.
“Time will tell how long it will last,” Erdogan told reporters.