BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libya’s rival governments committed to an internationally brokered truce that took effect Sunday, though immediate reports of violations by both sides raised concerns it might not stick.
The truce, which was proposed by Russia and Turkey, could be the first break in fighting in months, and the first brokered by international players. It comes as Libya is on the brink of a major escalation, with foreign backers of the rival Libyan governments stepping up their involvement in the oil-rich nation’s conflict.
It also comes amid a broader diplomatic push for a political solution to Libya’s war, which has crippled the country for more than seven years. The war has displaced hundreds of thousands and left more than a million in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.
The United Nations and European powers, along with Libya’s allies in the region, have been calling for a peace summit to happen in Berlin early this year that would bring together the leaders of the rival governments, and possibly move the country closer to nationwide elections.
But it’s proven difficult to stop fighting on the ground.
The country’s UN-supported government said that it had recorded "violations” of the ceasefire minutes after it was supposed to take effect in the early hours of Sunday. The government did not specify what kind of violations in its written statement.
Meanwhile, a general for the opposing east-based forces said that his lines had also been targeted by several missiles. Brig. Gen. Khaled al-Mahjoub, who is in charge of mobilizing the east-based forces, said that some battalions had been the subject of "random” incoming shells. He said that the attacks were not large enough to warrant a response.
The Associated Press could not verify either of the sides’ claims, and as of midday Sunday that ceasefire appeared to be holding, if uneasily.
The last time both sides paused the fighting was for a very brief period in August during a Muslim feast day. But this time, both sides declared they’d observe the truce, with the east-backed forces led by ex-general Khalifa Haftar joining the agreement shortly before midnight on Saturday.
Libya is governed by dueling authorities, one based in the east and one in Tripoli in the west. Each rely on different militias for support. Both sides have different stipulations in order for the fighting to stop.
Fayez Sarraj, who is prime minister of the UN-supported government in Tripoli, has previously demanded that Haftar’s forces retreat from the capital’s outskirts and halt their offensive against it. Haftar and his allies, meanwhile, have called for the dissolution of militias fighting for Sarraj inside Tripoli. The conditions of neither are likely to be met.