Libya’s warring sides meet, discuss implementing ceasefire

CAIRO (AP) – Military leaders from Libya’s warring sides met on Monday in the oasis town of Ghadames, the United Nations (UN) said, for the first face-to-face talks inside Libya since last year’s months-long attack on the capital by forces loyal to the country’s east-based military commander.

The discussions are also the fifth round of UN-brokered talks, less than two weeks after the two sides inked a permanent cease-fire in Geneva on October 23, a move the UN billed as historic after years of fighting that has split the North African country in two.

The UN mission in Libya said the meetings would last through today and discuss implementing and monitoring the Geneva ceasefire, along with details on how to verify possible violations.

Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, to the west of the North African country, and rival authorities based in the east.

The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers. The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Then, in 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Hifter and his forces launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli, a campaign that stalled after months of fighting and eventually collapsed in June. Hifter’s forces have since withdrawn to the coastal city of Sirte.

Fighting has died down over the past months amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack by the Tripoli forces on Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals, and to start talks aiming at ending the years-long conflict.

The Geneva ceasefire deal included the return of armed groups and military units “to their camps” and that all foreign mercenaries be out of the oil-rich country within three months.

However, the pullback from the front lines could take longer. Brig Gen Khaled al-Mahjoub, said their units would return to their camps “in parallel with” the exit of foreign mercenaries.