One of the two leaders of Libya’s rival governments signed a landmark cease-fire deal on Monday at the end of protracted talks in Moscow, leaving a tentative hope for settling the deadly conflict in the war-torn country.
Fayez al-Sarraj, head of Libya’s UN-recognised government, and his rival, General Khalifa Haftar flew into Moscow on Monday for talks mediated by Russia’s and Turkey’s foreign and defence ministers.
Libya has been engaged in civil war since 2011 after the ousting and killing of long-term Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Mr Sarraj’s government is now in control of the country’s west and its capital Tripoli while Gen Haftar’s Libyan National Army occupies the east including the Mediterranean Sea port of Benghazi.
Intense fighting flared up in Libya in December after Gen Haftar’s forces closed in on Tripoli before the warring parties agreed on a truce that came into effect Sunday, providing the first respite in hostilities in months.
Emerging from nearly seven hours of talks, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told reporters on Monday that Mr Sarraj was the only one to sign the agreement on a lasting cease-fire that Russia and Turkey had put forward.
Gen Haftar “has asked for a bit more time until tomorrow morning to decide whether to sign it,” the Russian foreign minister said, adding that the commander of Libya’s east-based forces has a “positive view” of the deal.
Russia has maintained a careful balancing act in Libya by both recognising Mr Sarraj’s government but also negotiating with Gen Haftar and reportedly propping him up with mercenaries.
By signing the agreement, both Libyan leaders will also be committing to a political settlement to resolve the current power deadlock, said Mehmet Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, pledging Russia and Turkey’s help in seeing the deal through.
With Monday’s talks, Russia and Turkey tried to match their previous successful meditation efforts between bitter rivals such as when the two countries cut a deal in 2018, staving off an imminent offensive by the Syrian government on rebels in the Idlib province.
Russia and Turkey have been supporting rival governments in Libya by sending in military aid, advisers and mercenaries. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, denied on Sunday that Russians fighting in Libyan were acting on behalf of the Kremlin.