Arab League Urges Ceasefire in Libya, as Battle for Sirte Looms

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Arab League Urges Ceasefire in Libya, as Battle for Sirte Looms

Diplomats say a new battle for the town could still be avoided, particularly if Turkey and Russia can hash out an agreement.

The Arab League of Foreign Ministers called Tuesday for a truce in Libya as the warring sides, with the support of their foreign backers mobilize near Sirte, the main oil region, and threaten an escalation.

“Libya is passing through a dangerous turn in the course of its conflict,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.

“The military option will not achieve victory for any side … and the military action will not bring peace or establish stability on the Libyan soil,” Gheit told an online emergency meeting called by Egypt to debate the latest developments in the North African country.

“The political solution is the only way to settle the Libyan crisis,” Gheit said.

A ceasefire will enable a re-engagement in the United Nations-brokered negotiations to reach an agreement between the rival parties in the war-torn country, Abul Gheit insisted.

Libya’s U.N. recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) had rejected Egypt’s invitation to the meeting, denouncing that calls for peace talks were made by backers of the eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Earlier in the week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called on the GNA to stop its counteroffensive against Haftar’s forces east of the capital, Tripoli, threatening military intervention and criticizing Turkish involvement in Libya.

Likewise, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that he could understand the “legitimate concern” of el-Sisi.

“I don’t want in six months, or one year or two, to see that Libya is in the situation that Syria is in today,” Macron said, accusing Turkey of playing a “dangerous game” in Libya.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy hit back saying Macron must have suffered an “eclipse of the mind” to oppose Ankara’s support of the GNA.

“The current troubles in Libya are caused by the attacks of putschist Haftar, whom [Macron] supports and who is a warlord who refused ceasefire accords in Moscow and Berlin,” Aksoy said, referring to international efforts to end the fighting in January.

Libya’s front lines have shifted rapidly in recent months as Ankara’s increased backing helped the GNA drive Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) from Tripoli and the northwest.

The LNA and the GNA are now preparing to battle for Sirte, and any further advance by the latter would give it the chance to take back control over Libya’s “oil crescent,” the region where most of the OPEC member’s energy is produced and exported.

Diplomats say a new battle for the town could still be avoided, particularly if Turkey and Russia can hash out an agreement.

Russia said Tuesday that it wanted a ceasefire in Libya and denied a UN report last month that said it had up to 1,200 mercenaries fighting in the country.

Libya descended into chaos in the wake of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Thousands of people have been killed in sporadic fighting since 2014 between factions in the east and west.

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