Turkey backs Libya ceasefire but doubtful after Haftar's refusal - VP Oktay

Turkey supports a ceasefire declared in Libya last month but has doubts of its implementation after eastern-based forces under rebel General Khalifa Haftar dismissed the move, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Wednesday.

Following international calls for a ceasefire, Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of Libya’s Ankara-backed Government of National Accord, issued instructions to all military forces to halt combat operations on Aug. 21. Sarraj called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held in March, and for an end to an oil blockade imposed earlier this year by its rival, Haftar’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army.

Although Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which supports Haftar, welcomed the ceasefire, the LNA dismissed it as “deceptive”, saying that GNA-allied militias were preparing an assault on the strategic coastal city of Sirte.

“We see there are points by Sarraj and Saleh that are good points, like lifting the (oil) embargo, but there are some issues with the statements as well,” Oktay told an online panel organised by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research think tank in Washington. The vice president was referring to differing calls for demilitarised zones in Sirte and Jufra, a Libyan oil region.

“Saleh has tried to somehow reach an agreement and Haftar has already rejected it” he said. “If it goes through, we would love it, but unfortunately there are many doubts. Unfortunately, there are huge military accumulations by countries supporting Haftar.”

The GNA has received substantial Turkish military support to turn the tide of its armed conflict against the LNA and its commander Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, among other countries.

After reversing the gains made by an LNA offensive launched in April 2019 to take Tripoli, Turkey and the GNA have marked as their next targets as Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals, and Al-Jufra air base located in the oil region – two strategic locations controlled by Haftar’s forces.