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Libyan factions sign 'permanent' ceasefire following talks

UN announces signing of agreement in Geneva to end fighting
General view during talks between the rival factions in the Libya conflict on 20 October 2020 at the United Nations offices in Geneva (AFP)

Warring factions in Libya have agreed to a "permanent" ceasefire following talks, the United Nations said on Friday.

The agreement came after five days of discussions in Geneva between representatives of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

"The Libyan parties have reached a permanent ceasefire agreement throughout Libya," said Stephanie Williams, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

"This achievement represents an important turning point towards peace and stability in Libya."

Libya has been in a state of unrest since the overthrow of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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Since then, different actors have vied for power in the North African state, with numerous foreign powers weighing into back opposing sides.

The country's capital Tripoli in the west is held by the GNA, while eastern commander Khalifa Haftar's LNA rules the east alongside another administration.

Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019 - backed by Russia, the UAE and Egypt - but was driven back earlier this year after Turkey intervened to support the GNA.

The signing of the agreement on Friday, which comes after accelerated discussions around a ceasefire in recent weeks, lasted about 10 minutes and was followed by a round of applause.

“We have had enough suffering, enough bloodshed... we hope we will change the suffering on all the territories of Libya, especially in the south," said Ali Abushahma, the head of the delegation for the GNA, according to the Associated Press.

“I appeal to all Libya: Be one hand."

According to UNSMIL, the rival groups agreed to form a joint military force under a unified command.

Williams said the deal also called for "the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from all Libyan territories, land, air and sea, within a maximum period of three months from today".

"The ceasefire does not apply to UN-designated terrorist groups," she added.