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Libya's Haftar, unity govt agree to UN-backed Eid truce

Goran Tomasevic, Reuters | Fighters loyal to Libya's UN-backed government (GNA) fire guns during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya May 25, 2019.

Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces agreed Saturday to a UN-backed humanitarian truce around Tripoli for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire.

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Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) said earlier it was conditionally willing to accept a truce in fighting around the capital for the three-day holiday which starts Sunday.

The United Nations had called on the GNA and Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) to commit to a humanitarian truce by midnight on Friday.

Haftar's forces have been fighting since early April to seize Tripoli from the GNA.

The strongman's spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari said Saturday that his forces "announce a halt to all military operations... in the suburbs of Tripoli".

Mesmari said the truce had gone into effect at 3:00 PM on Saturday (1300 GMT) and would last until the same time on Monday afternoon.

The GNA had said late Friday it was keen to "ease the suffering of the citizens and allow rescue workers to accomplish their mission" and would accept "a humanitarian truce for Eid al-Adha".

But it listed several conditions, saying the ceasefire must be observed "in all combat zones, with a cessation of direct and indirect fire and movement of troops".

It also said the truce must include "a ban on flights and reconnaissance overflights" across the country's entire airspace.

The GNA also called on the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to "ensure the implementation of the truce and note any breaches".

UNSMIL had expressed "regret" earlier Saturday that it had "not received any response" from Haftar's forces following its call for a ceasefire, and urged all sides to respect the sanctity of the holiday.

Haftar's spokesman, talking from the eastern city of Benghazi, then announced the ceasefire "out of respect for this occasion's place in our spirits... so that Libyan citizens can celebrate this Eid in peace".

Over the past four months, 1,093 people have been killed in the fighting and 5,752 wounded, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while more than 120,000 people have been displaced.

Forces loyal to the GNA are keeping Haftar's troops at bay on the southern outskirts of the city.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame had already called several times for humanitarian truces, without success.

In a video conference with the UN Security Council late last month, Salame warned against mounting tensions and called for a ceasefire for Eid Al-Adha.

(AFP)

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