By Ann Seymour
Rabat – Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt joined the latest push for military de-escalation on Wednesday June 12, issuing a joint statement calling for an “unconditional ceasefire” for the neighboring country of Libya.
After a meeting in Tunis, foreign affairs ministers of Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt expressed “deep concern” over the situation. The ministers issued a statement that denounced “the continuous flow of weapons” into Libya and rejected a military solution to the conflict. The three countries instead pushed for a political settlement to Libya’s continuing unrest.
In 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in the NATO-backed Libyan Civil War. The power vacuum left the country in a growing state of instability, with multiple militias fighting for control of the oil-rich country.
The ongoing conflict between factions turned Libya into a war-zone between rival forces.
In 2015, the UN supported the establishment of the Government of National Accord (GNA). The internationally-recognized government is based in the Western half of the country and headquartered in Tripoli. The GNA’s primary opposition is the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar. The GNA established its own parallel government in the east, based in the city of Al Bayda.
The battle marks the third time Libya has gone to war since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The latest fighting began when General Haftar launched an attack on the GNA in Tripoli on April 4. Both the LNA and the defending GNA received weapons from their respective allies, which violated the UN’s arms embargo. This included neighboring Egypt, who supported the LNA.
The battle for Tripoli devastated the capital, home to over a million residents. According to the World Health Organization, at least 653 people have been killed since the fighting escalated in April. Thousands have been injured, and over 50 thousand displaced from their homes.
Despite the loss, General Haftar and the LNA rejected plans for a ceasefire. He claimed militias have infiltrated the GNA and vowed to continue fighting until they are defeated.
While the violence in Tripoli continues, Foreign Ministers Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, Khemaies Jhinaoui of Tunisia, and Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria pushed for a diplomatic solution.
At their meeting on Wednesday, the seventh in an ongoing tripartite initiative, the ministers renewed their “categorical rejection of any outside interference in Libya’s internal affairs” and called for continued cooperation between the three countries.
The meeting was held a few days after United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for all countries to enforce a total arms embargo to Libya.
The UN first imposed a ban on arms sales to Libya after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011. Following Guterres’s call on Monday, the UN unanimously approved to extend the embargo through June of 2020.
The next gathering of the tripartite council will take place in Algeria, the date yet to be determined.