Egypt proposes new Libya plan after collapse of Haftar offensive

Our Foreign Staff
UN-backed GNA forces take control of town south of Tripoli

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a new peace initiative for Libya in Cairo on Saturday, flanked by the eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, whose 14-month offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli, collapsed this week.

The head of the Tripoli parliament, aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital, dismissed the offer as that of a defeated force.

Haftar's reversal extends the GNA's control across most of northwest Libya while Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), based in Benghazi, and its allies control the east and much of the south, as well as most of Libya's oilfields.

For more than five years, rival parliaments and governments in the east and the west have engaged in a stop-start conflict.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia have provided support Haftar, but that backing has been outweighed in recent months by Turkish military backing for the GNA.

Sisi, who was also accompanied in Cairo by eastern Libyan parliament head Aguila Saleh, proposed a ceasefire starting on Monday.

He said the plan included a call for negotiations in Geneva, then the election of a leadership council, the disbanding of militias and the exit of all foreign fighters from Libya.

In brief comments, Haftar said he hoped Sisi could make "urgent and effective efforts to compel Turkey to completely stop the transfer of weapons and mercenaries to Libya". The UAE was quick to state its support for Saturday's declaration.

But Khaled al-Meshri, head of the GNA-aligned legislative assembly, said Libyans had no need for new initiatives and rejected Haftar's attempt to return to negotiations after military defeat, according to Al Jazeera.

GNA forces also continued their advance as the LNA retreated from al-Washka, west of the coastal city of Sirte, sources on both sides said.

Libya has had no stable central authority since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by NATO-backed rebels in 2011.

Haftar is a deeply divisive figure whose offensive upended a U.N.-led peace process, and it is unclear how much traction any initiative proposed by him or his allies can gain.

A text of the plan included "the disbanding of militias and the handing over of their arms so that the Libyan National Army ... can carry out its military and security responsibilities".

That language reflects the LNA's narrative of restoring order over western Libya's many disparate armed groups, and is likely to antagonise its rivals.

Numerous previous attempts to establish truces and a return to negotiations have foundered, though the United Nations has started holding separate ceasefire talks with both sides.

Egyptian-led efforts to unify Libya's military have also stalled in the past over Haftar's request to be supreme commander, diplomats say.

GNA forces are likely to keep going until they meet resistance, said Tarek Megerisi, a Libya analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

"Right now, military voices are ascendant and supported by a fear that Haftar and the UAE will exploit any truce to consolidate and launch counter-attacks," he said.