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Libya’s GNA suspending ceasefire talks after Tripoli port attack

Libya’s internationally recognised government has said it is suspending its participation in ceasefire negotiations hosted by the United Nations in Geneva, hours after an attack by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces on the capital’s port. In a statement late on Tuesday, the presidential council of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said it would respond firmly…

Libya’s GNA suspending ceasefire talks after Tripoli port attack

Libya’s internationally recognised government has said it is suspending its participation in ceasefire negotiations hosted by the United Nations in Geneva, hours after an attack by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces on the capital’s port.
In a statement late on Tuesday, the presidential council of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said it would respond firmly to the attack at the appropriate time.
Earlier in the day, representatives of the GNA and Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched a military offensive in April last year to seize Tripoli, had resumed indirect talks aimed at establishing a lasting ceasefire. 
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Footage shared online showed thick black smoke rising from the port, a major gateway for food, fuel, wheat and other imports.
State oil firm National Oil Corporation (NOC) said it had urgently evacuated all fuel tankers from the facility after a missile struck metres away “from a highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker discharging in the port”.
“Today’s attack on Tripoli port could have led to a humanitarian and environmental disaster,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said.
“The city does not have operational fuel storage facilities … the consequences will be immediate; hospitals, schools, power stations and other vital services will be disrupted,” he said.
The attack happened as five military representatives from the GNA and another five from the LNA gathered in Geneva, more than a week after they ended their first round of negotiations without striking a deal that would help end the fighting in Tripoli.
In the previous round of talks, the UN mission said there was “broad consensus” between the two sides on “the urgency for Libyans to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the country, and to “stop the flow of non-Libyan fighters and send them out of the country”.
Oil-rich Libya has been splintered between competing factions and militias since former leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed during a NATO-supported uprising in 2011. It is currently split between two rival administrations – the Tripoli-based GNA and another allied with Haftar in the eastern city of Tobruk that controls key oil fields and export terminals. Each administration is backed by an array of foreign countries.
Earlier in the day Ghassan Salame, head of the UN Libya mission, had called the port attack a “big breach” of the fragile – and repeatedly violated – ceasefire that was brokered by Russia and Turkey on January 12 as part of efforts to de-escalate the battle for the capital.

United Nations envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame addresses reporters in Geneva [Fabrice Coffrini/AFP]

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Head of Libya’s GNA says he wants to quit by end of October |NationalTribune.com

Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s internationally-recognised government, has said he wants to quit by the end of October and hand over power to a new executive authority as efforts to find a political solution to the country’s years-long conflict gather pace. In a brief televised speech on Wednesday, al-Sarraj said United Nations-brokered talks between…

Head of Libya’s GNA says he wants to quit by end of October |NationalTribune.com

Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s internationally-recognised government, has said he wants to quit by the end of October and hand over power to a new executive authority as efforts to find a political solution to the country’s years-long conflict gather pace.
In a brief televised speech on Wednesday, al-Sarraj said United Nations-brokered talks between the country’s rival factions have led to a “new preparatory phase” to unify Libyan institutions and prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.
“I announce to all my sincere wish to cede my functions to the next administration before the end of October at the latest,” he declared from the capital, Tripoli.
Al-Sarraj is head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), while eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Haftar’s LNA – which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia – launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture Tripoli from al-Sarraj’s government. But the campaign collapsed in June when the Turkish-backed GNA forces gained the upper hand and drove the LNA from the outskirts of the capital and other western towns, with the front lines now solidified near the central city of Sirte.
Under heavy international pressure, delegates from the rival camps met earlier this month and agreed on a preliminary deal that aims to guide the country towards elections within 18 months and demilitarise Sirte.
The coastal ity, which is controlled by Haftar, is the gateway to Libya’s major oil fields and export terminals, also held by the 76-year-old.

The LNA has blockaded energy exports since January, depriving the Libyan state of its main source of revenue, worsening living standards and contributing to protests in cities controlled by both sides.
‘Starting gun’
In Tripoli, the protests fuelled tensions between al-Sarraj and the influential Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, whom he briefly suspended last month before restoring him to his post.
Talks are expected to resume soon in Geneva.
“This is effectively the starting gun for a new round of manoeuvring for what comes next,” Tarek Megerisi, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the Reuters News Agency, referring to al-Serraj’s plans to step down.
“Ultimately it’ll leave the GNA as an entity, and western Libya, a bit degraded,” he added.
Al-Sarraj’s departure could lead to new infighting among other senior GNA figures, and between the armed groups from Tripoli and the interior minister’s coastal city of Misrata that wield control on the ground.
“The militia issue will be more vivid,” said Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute.
Al-Sarraj has headed the GNA since it was formed in 2015 as a result of a UN-backed political agreement aimed at uniting and stabilising Libya after the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising that removed Muammar Gaddafi.

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Despite the failings and weakness of the government he led, al-Sarraj has been seen as a moderate with whom parts of the eastern faction and their foreign allies, as well as other international players, were comfortable dealing.
Al-Sarraj, who arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday after a visit to his close ally Turkey, urged negotiators to quickly name the new administration to “secure a peaceful and smooth transition”.
Separately, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday said Turkey and Russia were close to reaching an agreement on a ceasefire and a political process to end the long-running conflict following the latest round of talks between the two power brokers in Ankara. 
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, told a news conference on Wednesday that Libya required a new political process.
“That political process needs to renew the institutions that exist and, at the same time, to move for elections in an acceptable delay,” he said. “There are signs of hope.”
Guterres said also there are “promising contacts” to agree on a lasting ceasefire rather than the currently existed military standstill.
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Libya’s UN-recognised government announces ceasefire |NationalTribune.com

Libya’s UN-recognised government announced a ceasefire across the country on Friday and called for demilitarising the contested strategic city of Sirte, raising hopes for peace in the more than nine-year-old conflict. The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) also called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in March, and for an end to an oil…

Libya’s UN-recognised government announces ceasefire |NationalTribune.com

Libya’s UN-recognised government announced a ceasefire across the country on Friday and called for demilitarising the contested strategic city of Sirte, raising hopes for peace in the more than nine-year-old conflict.
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) also called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in March, and for an end to an oil blockade imposed by rival forces since earlier this year.
GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj “issued instructions to all military forces to immediately cease fire and all combat operations in all Libyan territories”, a statement said. 
Al-Sarraj added the ultimate aim of the truce is to impose “full sovereignty over the Libyan territory and the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries”.

There was no immediate response from eastern forces military commander Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). However, Haftar agreed on an Egyptian initiative in June that included a ceasefire.
Halt military intervention
Aguila Saleh, speaker of the pro-Haftar Libyan parliament, called on all parties to adhere to the truce. Saleh said the ceasefire will prevent foreign military intervention in Libya.
The truce will make the strategic city of Sirte a temporary seat for a new presidential council to be guarded by security forces from various regions in the country, said Saleh.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – who has backed Haftar and threatened to deploy troops across the border into Libya – welcomed the ceasefire declarations, a statement said. 
As did the UN Support Mission in Libya, which called for the expulsion of all foreign forces and mercenaries in Libya. Both sides of the conflict are supported by thousands of mercenaries.
Sami Hamdi, editor-in-chief of The International Interest, a current affairs analysis magazine, said the announcements raised the prospect of peace in the North African nation after a number of failed ceasefires. 
“I think this is the first time in the entire Libyan conflict whereby we have military stalemate, the military dynamics are equal,” Hamdi told Al Jazeera. “This time as a result of Turkish intervention, the western side, the GNA … has enough power to prevent Haftar from marching westwards.

“This ceasefire has a very good chance of lasting because the cost of a potential battle is so high and if an individual faction decides to launch a battle by itself it would find itself obliterated,” he added.
“Now, we are seeing a new phase in the negotiations between Turkey and the other foreign powers. All the dynamics suggest that all the foreign powers prefer some sort of peace at least for the foreseeable future.” 
Oil-rich country 
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival east and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
Haftar launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture the capital, Tripoli.
But his campaign collapsed in June when the Tripoli-allied fighters, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of Tripoli and other western towns.
The GNA was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed after a series of military offensives by forces loyal to Haftar.
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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Libya’s NOC accuses UAE of being behind oil blockade |NationalTribune.com

Since January, groups loyal to Haftar have been blocking the production and export of oil from the country’s most important fields and terminals [Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters] Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) has accused the United Arab Emirates of instructing eastern forces in Libya’s civil war to reimpose a blockade of oil exports after the departure…

Libya’s NOC accuses UAE of being behind oil blockade |NationalTribune.com

Since January, groups loyal to Haftar have been blocking the production and export of oil from the country’s most important fields and terminals [Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters]
Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) has accused the United Arab Emirates of instructing eastern forces in Libya’s civil war to reimpose a blockade of oil exports after the departure of the first tanker in six months.
The UAE, along with Russia and Egypt, supports the eastern-based self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, which on Saturday said the blockade would continue despite it having let a tanker loaded with oil from storage.
Libya, which sits atop Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, is torn between the rival powers of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and eastern-based Haftar.
“NOC has been informed that the instructions to shut down production were given to (the LNA) by the United Arab Emirates,” it said in a statement on Sunday, resuming force majeure on all oil exports.
There was no immediate comment on NOC’s accusation from either the LNA or the UAE.
Haftar has been on the back foot after Turkish support helped the GNA turn back his 14-month assault on the capital, Tripoli.

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After the GNA gained ground, NOC also tried to restart production at the Sharara oil field, but said this effort was quickly shut down and accused Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA of deploying there.
On Friday the Vitol tanker Kriti Bastion docked and loaded at Es Sider port before sailing on Saturday, the first legal export of Libyan oil since the blockade was imposed in January.
The NOC said Russian and Syrian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA now occupied Es Sider.
Under international agreements, only NOC can produce and export oil and revenues must flow into the Central Bank of Libya. Both those institutions are based in Tripoli, the seat of the GNA.
The LNA said on Saturday it would continue the blockade until a list of conditions were met, including channelling oil revenue into a new bank account based outside the country to then be distributed regionally.
On Sunday the United States’s Libya embassy said the resumption of the blockade came after “days of intense diplomatic activity” to let NOC resume output, and said it “regrets that foreign-backed efforts” had impeded this.

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