Libya forces loyal to Haftar announce ceasefire after calls from Kremlin, Ankara
Eastern Libya forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar on Saturday announced a ceasefire in the western region, which includes the capital Tripoli, starting 00:01am on Sunday (22:01 GMT) and conditioned on acceptance by their rivals, a spokesman said.
Since April, Libyan National Army forces loyal to Haftar have been waging a campaign to take Tripoli, where they are battling forces aligned with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
The LNA on Thursday rebuffed a call by Turkey and Russia for the warring parties to declare a ceasefire amid clashes in a conflict drawing increasing foreign involvement and concern, Reuters said.
Still, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said in a video statement late on Saturday that the LNA had accepted a truce in the west "provided that the other party abides by the ceasefire". He warned that "any breach will be met with a harsh response".
Haftar's forces, which began their offensive on Tripoli in April, did not give any details in their short statement on how the ceasefire may come into effect, AFP said.
A senior GNA official had said on Thursday that it welcomed any credible ceasefire proposal but had a duty to protect Libyans from Haftar's offensive.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) welcomed the truce and urged the warring parties "to strictly abide by the ceasefire and make room for peaceful efforts to address all disputes through a Libyan-Libyan dialogue".
Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA headed by Fayez al-Serraj, while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside the eastern forces.
Any ceasefire will likely be hard to uphold after a recent escalation in fighting around Tripoli and the strategic coastal city of Sirte and given the fractious, loose nature of Libya's military alliances.
Forces loyal to Haftar said this week they had taken control of Sirte in a rapid advance preceded by air strikes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met earlier on Saturday in Moscow and called for international efforts to address the crisis in Libya.
Germany and Russia are both acting as mediators in a conflict Berlin has warned could become a "second Syria", and the topic topped the agenda as they met for talks at the Kremlin.
"I am really counting on the opposing sides in Libya ceasing fire, ceasing armed combat... within a few hours," Putin said. "It's important to bring an end to the armed confrontation."
Merkel, making her first visit to Russia since 2018, said she hoped "the Turkish-Russian efforts will be successful", calling a ceasefire the first step in a peace process.
Putin and Merkel both backed a Libya peace conference in Berlin being organised by the UN special envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, which could be held in the coming weeks.