Haftar, Saleh and Sisi call for ceasefire under “Cairo Initiative”, GNA rejects any ceasefire until they have captured Sirte and Jufra
On 6 June, Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, flanked by the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, and Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR), Aqeela Saleh, announced a new peace initiative for Libya and declared that a ceasefire would begin on 8 June at 6:00 am local time. No ceasefire has been enforced at the time of writing. On 8 June, GNA Interior Minister, Fathi Bashaagha, stated that the GNA would only hold political talks after it had captured Sirte and al-Jufra.
The contents of what has been now dubbed the “Cairo” initiative is essentially a rehashed version of Saleh’s political road map – which he put forward in late April, reportedly with significant oversight from Russia- involving reducing the Presidential Council to three members, one from each region. The Cairo initiative is nevertheless believed to be the public face of the Russia-Turkey deal on Libya. This deal between Moscow and Ankara appears to have been negotiated between the two countries in recent weeks, with ‘lines in the sand’ being agreed between the two involving Russia and the LNA withdrawing to pre-April 2019 positions, but no further. The GNA’s continued push on Sirte may highlight a point of contention between Moscow and Ankara with regards to the agreed red lines, given the GNA did control Sirte up until January 2020, as well as highlighting rifts within the GNA over their strategy. Nevertheless, Turkey is still believed to be broadly ‘on board’ with this deal.
The announcement of this “Cairo initiative” signals the temporary conclusion of the LNA’s offensive on Tripoli but is unlikely to lead to an immediate cessation of fighting on the ground. Strategically, the initiative by the eastern bloc and its international backers is likely designed as a stalling mechanism to give the LNA coalition more time to replenish and organize their forces (both domestic and foreign), strengthen the defence of the locations they have (Sirte and Jufra) and burnish their international reputation by being the side attempting to seek peace. This will strengthen the eastern bloc’s leverage in any political process, or if that fails, will allow it to reset for a renewed assault on Tripoli in the longer term.
Haftar’s presence alongside Saleh at the announcement signifies that the LNA commander’s influence both domestically and among his foreign backers is waning – rather than being the sole powerbroker in the East, Haftar’s role is being relegated to a purely military one while Saleh’s influence as the East’s main political powerbroker appears to be strengthening. The joint announcement is symbolic given the recent rift between the two men, and indicates that Egypt and other allies want to ensure that the eastern ‘bloc’ has a unified approach to the crisis.