MOSCOW – A ceasefire between Libya’s rival leaders was delayed on Monday after the head of the UN-recognized government Fayez al-Serraj signed a document in Moscow to that effect while the Field Marchal Khalifa Haftar asked for more time to decide.
“The head of the Libyan Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Serraj, and the president of the Libyan Supreme State Council, Khaled al-Masri, have just signed” the document, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, told the media following the negotiations.
“Haftar and the president of the Tobruk government, Aguila Saleh, view the document positively and asked for a bit of time until tomorrow morning to decide whether to sign,” added the top Russian diplomat.
“I hope the decision will be positive,” added Lavrov.
The talks lasted six hours and were held in the presence of the foreign and defense ministers from Russia and Turkey.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said both sides would commit to respecting the ceasefire indefinitely – a preliminary step towards launching a process of political settlement if Haftar “signs the document tomorrow morning.”
According to the final draft of the document, both sides would be committing to guarantee the “unconditional respect” of the cessation of hostilities that entered into force on Jan. 12.
They would also be agreeing to the delimitation of a contact line, which would be accompanied by measures to stabilize the situation on the ground, such as the cessation of all offensive actions and a synchronized de-escalation of military tensions.
The document, which was published on Twitter by a representative of the GNA, obliges the government and rebels to guarantee access and the safe distribution of humanitarian aid.
At no time was it reported that al-Serraj and Haftar held direct negotiations in the Russian capital.
The current ceasefire was driven last week by the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the two countries that are openly intervening in an armed conflict that has become a multinational war.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin earlier in the day and hammered home the need for a “credible and durable” ceasefire.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said any solution to the Libyan conflict should be led by the United Nations.
“A ceasefire, it is a first step in the right directions, but what you need is a process for consolidation, for reconstruction and a government of unity.
“There is a long way to go, this has to be a UN-led process,” she told a press conference in Brussels following a meeting with Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg’s prime minister.
The head of the EU’s foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, said: “The announcement of a ceasefire in Libya provides an important opportunity to resume dialogue for a political solution to the crisis.”
Al-Serraj is the prime minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, which is supported by the UN as the legitimate government in the North African country but he has come under a military assault from Haftar’s Libyan National Army.
The GNA receives economic support from the European Union and military guidance and assistance from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
Turkey recently sent troops to the country to bolster al-Serraj’s forces against the LNA.
The United States, France and Russia lend their political support to Haftar’s forces, which have also brought hundreds of Russian mercenaries into their fold.
Haftar’s allegiance lies with the Tobruk government.
The LNA dominates all of eastern and central Libya.