Haftar backs cease-fire in Libya after losing crucial ground to GNA

Putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar has backed a cease-fire in Libya, Egyptian president announced Saturday following a series of strategic victories by the U.N.-recognized Libyan government forces, including Haftar stronghold Tarhuna and the town of Bani Walid.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi announced an initiative, called the “Cairo declaration,” in a news conference in Cairo alongside Haftar and his ally, eastern parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.

El-Sissi urged a cease-fire to begin in Libya as of June 8 as part of “the initiative” and called for “dismantling militias and handing over their weaponry so that Libya’s National Army (led by Haftar) would be able to carry out its military and security responsibilities and duties.”

The Egyptian president also said the initiative paves the way for forming an elected presidential council in Libya.

Egypt is one of several countries, along with the UAE and Russia, that have supported the militias of the Libyan warlord against Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), supported by Turkey.

The first reaction from the Libyan government members signaled a rejection for the initiative. Mohammed Ammari Zayed, a member of the Libyan Presidential Council, said on his Twitter account that they will continue to “liberate the entire homeland and strengthen the government’s authority.”

Libyan Army spokesman Muhammad Kununu also said: “We don’t have time to watch war criminals on television. We are following our heroic forces going after fleeing militias.”

The news conference came after the Libyan Army liberated Haftar’s last stronghold in northwestern, Tarhuna, and the strategic town of Bani Walid.

Tarhuna was the main rear base for the devastating offensive against the capital that Haftar’s forces finally gave up this week, abandoning their remaining positions in the southern suburbs to advancing government troops.

“Our heroic forces have extended their control over the whole of Tarhuna,” Kununu said.

The government forces also announced Saturday that they launched an offensive Saturday for slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown Sirte.

“Orders have been given to our forces to begin their advance and to systematically attack all rebel positions,” he added.

Sirte was taken by Haftar’s forces virtually without a fight in January after one of Libya’s myriad local militias switched sides.

Beyond Sirte lies the prize of Libya’s main oil export ports, Haftar’s most important strategic asset.

In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital and recently regained strategic locations, including the al-Watiya air base, a major blow to Haftar’s forces.

Libya’s government was founded in 2015 under a United Nations-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to military offensives by Haftar’s forces, which have killed around 1,000 people since April 2019.

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