GENEVA – Rival factions in Libya have signed a permanent ceasefire deal to end an armed conflict that has raged for nearly a decade, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said on Friday.
The agreement hopes to end years of bloody fighting that has ravaged the oil-rich North African nation since the ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was executed after his regime was overthrown in a NATO-backed revolt in 2011.
Stephanie Williams, the head of the UN mission in Libya, praised the “historic” agreement, calling it “an important turning point towards peace and stability” in the country.
“Today is a good day for the Libyan people,” she said at a ceremony in Geneva as she announced the signing of a “complete, countrywide and permanent ceasefire agreement with immediate effect.”
“You have met for the sake of Libya, for your people in order to take concrete steps to put an end to their suffering,” she said.
“The road was long and difficult at times. Your patriotism was your way forward and you were able to reach a ceasefire agreement.”
The agreement was reached after five days of negotiations during the fourth round of talks of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, made up of representatives of the two sides in the conflict.
The two sides were made up of the UN-backed, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez al Serraj, and a faction led by General Khalifa Haftar, which controls large swathes of Libya’s east and south and is supported by Egypt, Russia and the UAE.
General Haftar was a former ally of Gaddafi during the 1970s and ‘80s, but fled to the United States in 1989 to become the main opposition leader in exile to Gaddafi after the dictator accused him of trying to overthrow him in a coup.
The country has been ravaged by civil war since the death of Gaddafi in 2011 at the hands of forces led by Haftar.
A UN weapons embargo has been in place ever since, but it has had little effect in stopping the bloodshed.
In the last 15 months, more than 1,800 people – including 400 civilians – have died while more than 20,000 have been wounded. Over 150,000 people have been internally displaced after being forced to flee their homes.
“I hope that this agreement will help put an end to the suffering of the Libyan people and we hope it will allow the displaced and refugees inside and outside the country to return to their homes and to live in peace and safety,” Williams said.
Colonel Ali Abushahma, head of the delegation representing the GNA, called on those in charge of Libyan troops to do everything in their power to fulfill the agreement which he said would “end bloodshed inside Libya and halt armed conflict, and God willing, be the reason for security and stability inside Libyan territories.”
A delegate representing the Tobruk-based parliament, Amhimmid Mohammed Alamami, said he was pleased with the result that “have managed to achieve what all Libyans hope for, to end bloodshed and spread peace and security among Libyans.”