Libya’s U.N.-backed prime minister on Saturday conditioned his government's participation in a proposed ceasefire to rival forces withdrawing from the outskirts of Tripoli, suggesting no immediate end to the country's civil war.
Prime Minister Fayez Serraj defended his “bellicose activities” to protect the Libyan capital, the seat of his government, on the eve of the start date for the truce proposed by Turkey and Russia.
Serraj spoke while in Rome for a meeting with Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte.
The meeting was the latest diplomatic effort to end the offensive launched by Serraj’s rival in eastern Libya, General Khalifa Hifter, and return the two sides to a U.N.-supported political process.
The presidents of Turkey and Russia this week called for a ceasefire between the warring eastern and western Libyan forces starting Sunday.
While Serraj’s government welcomed the call, a spokesman for Hifter’s self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, Ahmed al-Mosmari, said the group’s battalions would still try to take control of Tripoli from what he called “terrorist groups.”
Hifter’s eastern-based forces launched a fresh offensive in Tripoli in April, sparking a flurry of diplomatic efforts to try to contain the crisis in the North African nation.
The east-based government, backed by Hifter's forces, is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. The western, Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
Both Russia and Turkey have been accused of exacerbating the conflict in Libya by giving military aid to its warring parties.
Conte is eager to show Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, as a key facilitator in Libya’s political process, and met Wednesday in Rome with Hifter as part of that effort.
Serraj snubbed Conte on Wednesday, but on Saturday thanked Italy for its efforts.
The two sides agreed to restart a mixed commission to work out compensation to Libya stemming from Italy's Libyan occupation.
(Image Source: AP)