Saturday, June 6, after further discussions on Libya, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi presented a so-called Cairo “initiative” which calls for “respect for international efforts and proposes a ceasefire from 6 am (4 hours GMT), Monday June 8, 2020 “, said the Egyptian head of state at a press conference. Present at his side, Marshal Haftar, the strong man of eastern Libya. The latter accepted this initiative when his forces suffered a series of setbacks in the battle. The Egyptian president also called for international support for his initiative and called on the United Nations to organize negotiations between rival authorities in the west and east of the country.
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What the text of the “Cairo Declaration” says
The initiative, dubbed the “Cairo Declaration”, also calls for the withdrawal of “foreign mercenaries from all over Libya,” added Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. It also calls for the “dismantling of the militias and the handing over of arms so that the Libyan National Army [dirigée par le général Khalifa Haftar, NDLR] be able to fulfill its military and security responsibilities ”.
The Egyptian president also said that the initiative paved the way for the formation of an elected presidential council in Libya and prevented “extremist militias” from controlling the country’s resources.
Libya has been in chaos since the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Two authorities vie for power: the Libyan government of national unity (GNA), recognized by the UN, in the West, and a power embodied by Marshal Haftar in the East. President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi’s proposed peace plan comes just days after the failure of Marshal Haftar’s offensive launched in April 2019 in Tripoli, where the GNA sits.
The Arab League welcomed this initiative, but the spokesperson for the GNA forces was more reluctant. “We did not start this war, but we are the ones who decide where and when it ends,” he said.
As for the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian, he “welcomed the result obtained today aimed at the immediate cessation of hostilities”, saying that this was a “priority”. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke during a meeting with his counterpart Sameh Choukry, said the Quai d’Orsay in a press release. “He stressed that priority should go to the immediate cessation of hostilities and the rapid conclusion of a cease-fire” and insisted on “the importance of achieving the unification of Libyan institutions […] and the organization of parliamentary and presidential elections, “added the French ministry.
Later on Saturday, Russia also announced support for the ceasefire initiative. “We have read the content of the Egyptian president’s offer, of course we support all offers that aim to end the conflicts in Libya as soon as possible,” said Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s special representative to the Middle East and in African countries, according to the Ria news agency.
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The GNA offensive
Meanwhile, building on their victories in recent weeks, government forces launched an operation on the same day that Haftar agreed to a cease-fire to retake the city of Sirte. Located on the coast, 450 kilometers east of Tripoli, Syrte is a strategic lock between the east and the west of the oil country plunged into chaos since the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The conflict has seen an increasing involvement of foreign powers in recent months. And the GNA, supported by the Turkish ally, inflicted a series of setbacks on the pro-Haftar, regaining control of the whole of Libyan West. And he seems to want to continue his momentum.
On Saturday, “orders were given to (the GNA) forces to start advancing and attacking all rebel positions” in the Sirte region, said pro-GNA spokesman Mohamad Gnounou. “The air force carried out five strikes in the outskirts of Sirte, targeting armed vehicles and mercenaries,” he added in a statement on Facebook.
Since Wednesday, the GNA has successively announced the takeover of the international airport of Tripoli, out of service since 2014, the total control of the administrative borders of Greater Tripoli, and the takeover of Tarhouna, last stronghold of the pro-Haftar in the West.
Without directly confirming the first two setbacks, Khalifa Haftar spokesman Ahmad al-Mismari said that troops were “redeployed” outside Tripoli. “Yielding to pressure and calls from major powers and the United Nations for a ceasefire and the resumption of 5 + 5 meetings […], we fell back 60 kilometers from the outskirts of Tripoli to keep the battle away, “he said.
The meetings of this military committee, which includes five pro-GNA and five pro-Haftar members and which aims to obtain a cease-fire, have been suspended for three months, but the UN announced on Wednesday their resumption in Geneva.
All attempts to re-establish a lasting ceasefire have so far failed. Since April 2019, hundreds of people, including many civilians, have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced.
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