U.S. Markets closed

Libyan Rivals Sign Up to UN-Backed Truce Marking Eid Holiday

Samer Khalil Al-Atrush

(Bloomberg) -- East Libya military commander Khalifa Haftar accepted a truce on Saturday for the first time since launching an offensive in April to capture the capital Tripoli, which has spiraled into an increasingly deadly proxy war between regional powers and killed more than 1,000 people.

Haftar’s rivals in the internationally recognized government in Tripoli on Friday had accepted the truce proposed by the United Nations. Haftar’s Libyan National Army said in a statement the truce would last until Monday, but the UN hopes it will be extended and lead to peace negotiations in the North African oil producer.

Still, in a sign of the unpredictability that has plagued the country since a 2011 NATO-backed revolt overthrew dictator Muammar Qaddafi, a car bombing in the east killed two staff members with the United Nations mission, the pan Arab broadcaster Al-Arabiya reported. A spokesman for the UN mission said they were still gathering information on the bombing.

The U.S. has urged all parties to return to UN-directed political mediation, the success of which a State Department official on Friday said depends on a cease-fire in and around Tripoli. The fighting has put civilians in danger and damaged infrastructure, the official said, requesting anonymity to discuss the situation.

Earlier on Saturday the UN mission to Libya had expressed concern about how long it was taking Haftar to respond to the truce proposal. A source close to the field marshal had earlier indicated that he was concerned by reports of an inbound ship said to be carrying arms for the opposing side.

The UN’s Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame, has said a holiday cease-fire should be followed by an international conference to end the war, which has drawn in escalating foreign intervention. Backers of the Tripoli-based government include Turkey, while Haftar’s Libyan National Army is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

U.S. Support

The U.S. supports Salame’s efforts and that of the UN Support Mission to avoid further escalation, the State Department official said.

France and the UN have been pushing for a comprehensive political and economic deal that better allocates resources between Libya’s west and east, a key demand by Haftar, three diplomats told Bloomberg, asking not to be identified citing confidential discussions.

None of the diplomats elaborated on whether the plan for a cease-fire also envisages a withdrawal by Haftar’s forces, a demand of the government in Tripoli. Talks with Haftar would require his withdrawal at least to his main forward base of Jufra in central Libya, a senior official for the Tripoli government told Bloomberg.

--With assistance from Nick Wadhams and Abbas Al Lawati.

To contact the reporter on this story: Samer Khalil Al-Atrush in Cairo at skhalilalatr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, John Deane, Sara Marley

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.