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Head of Tripoli-based UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) PM Serraj announced unilateral ceasefire amid intensifying diplomatic efforts to revive political negotiations, while rival authorities faced series of protests. Germany and U.S. intensified their efforts to find way out of stalemate in oil-rich central Libya, which GNA-allied forces backed by Turkey have been seeking to take back from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) in recent months. U.S. President Trump 13 Aug discussed with Turkish President Erdoğan creation of demilitarised zone around Sirte city and nearby Jufra airbase and reopening of Haftar-controlled oil sites. During visit to Libya, German FM Heiko Maas 17 Aug met with Serraj and reiterated calls for demilitarisation of central Libya. Haftar’s spokesperson 19 Aug said ALAF won’t retreat from Sirte and leave city to “invaders”. Serraj 21 Aug announced unilateral ceasefire, called for resumption of oil production and export through Libya’s National Oil Corporation and for presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2021. Haftar’s ally, Tobruk-based House of Representatives Speaker Aghela Saleh, same day expressed support for truce and elections, and proposed Sirte as new capital for Libya. Haftar’s spokesperson 23 Aug dismissed ceasefire, said GNA is planning Turkish-backed offensive on Sirte. Oil and gas export blockade imposed by ALAF remained in force, but Haftar-aligned Petroleum Facilities Guard 19 Aug announced partial lifting of blockade in Marsa al-Brega oil export terminal solely for export of locally stored oil barrels, citing shortage of gas in local power stations. Protests 23 Aug erupted in capital Tripoli and other western cities over deteriorating living conditions and bad governance, and continued in following days; armed men fired live ammunition to disperse protesters in Tripoli wounding several, and abducted at least six. Serraj 29 Aug dismissed Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha allegedly over his handling of protests and subsequently announced plan to reshuffle cabinet. In Sirte, protests late-Aug erupted against Haftar forces and in support of former Qadhafi regime; ALAF forces cracked down on protestors reportedly killing one and arresting over 50.
Turkish-backed forces loyal to UN-recognised Govt of National Accord (GNA) prepared offensive in Libya’s centre, while Egypt took preparatory steps toward direct military intervention, raising risk of conflict escalation in Aug. In west, unknown aircraft 5 July launched airstrikes on Wutiya airbase, reportedly destroying air defence systems following Turkish deployment of military equipment there. In centre, GNA-allied forces continued to prepare for offensive to capture Sirte city, gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals, and nearby Jufra airbase from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF); column of about 200 vehicles reportedly moved eastward from Misrata city 18 July. Citing threat to national security, Egypt army 9 July held major exercise near Libyan border and Egyptian parliament 20 July authorised troop deployment abroad “in defence of national security” against “criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements”. UN Security Council special session on Libya 9 July highlighted international schisms: France fulminated against Turkey’s “aggressive” posture as destabilising factor; Turkey called for international community to end support for ALAF; Germany and U.S. supported demilitarisation of central Libya, but Russia did not; U.S. slammed Russia for deployment of mercenaries, which Russia denied. UN acting envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams late July warned of “huge risk” of miscalculation around Sirte triggering direct confrontation between rival foreign powers. Diplomatic efforts redoubled to secure agreement on reopening of oil fields and export terminals that Haftar-led forces and allied local tribesmen shut down in Jan. U.S., UN and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) early July proposed draft agreement holding guarantees that oil revenue would not accrue in contested Tripoli Central Bank but in NOC-controlled bank account for 120 days, to allow for concrete steps to address Haftar’s demands to replace Central Bank top management. NOC 10 July lifted force majeure on oil sites and ordered resumption of oil exports, but agreement unravelled within 24 hours with Haftar rejecting NOC’s temporary holding of oil revenues and reiterating call for audit of Central Bank under UN supervision. UN 27 July announced launch of Central Bank audit.
Tides turned in battle for capital Tripoli and front line shifted eastward around strategic city of Sirte, raising risk of escalation there in coming weeks, while political negotiations remained stalled. Forces loyal to UN-recognised Govt of National Accord (GNA) 5 June reclaimed control of capital Tripoli and took Tarhuna, last outpost of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) in west, reportedly after ALAF and Russian military aides pulled out without fighting. GNA 11 June reported discovery of several mass graves in Tarhuna. GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha 7 June signalled intention to continue military offensive eastward to capture strategic city of Sirte and nearby Jufra airbase, which serves as ALAF’s operations base. ALAF and its foreign backers 12-13 June repelled GNA offensive on Sirte; airstrikes killed over 40 GNA fighters and 19 civilians. Egypt President Sisi 20 June threatened military intervention in Libya over “red line” of Sirte. Turkey tried to strike deal with Russia over Sirte, but Russia’s foreign and defence ministers 14 June postponed visit to Turkey in last-minute move. Meanwhile, attempts at restarting negotiations failed. UN mission, which remains weakened by absence of special representative, held separate consultations on ceasefire with GNA and ALAF delegations throughout month. Sisi 6 June proposed roadmap for political negotiations, which was welcomed by allied states but rejected by GNA and Turkey. After National Oil Corporation and local guards 6-7 June agreed to restart oil production at Sharara and El-Feel oil fields in south, armed Haftar-allied military commanders 8 June ordered employees to halt production. UN Human Rights Council 22 June ordered fact-finding mission in Libya to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law since early 2016.