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Did France backtrack on “unconditional” ceasefire in Libya?

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

Questions are being asked whether the call by French President Emmanuel Macron for an “unconditional” ceasefire in Tripoli between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the forces backing the Presidency Council (PC) is still French policy. He made it when he met with the PC head, Faiez Sarraj, in Paris on 8 May.

At the meeting, Sarraj rejected any idea of any ceasefire unless the LNA first return to its positions held prior to 3 April. In response to Macron’s offer to try once more and help achieve peace in Libya under the auspices of the UN, Sarraj also declared that he would not negotiate again with either Haftar or the president of the House of Representatives, Ageela Saleh. He accused them of betrayal. He again went on to accuse France of supporting Haftar.

Over the following week, however, the idea of an “unconditional” ceasefire seems to have all but disappeared from French diplomacy in regards to Libya.

On 13 May, European foreign ministers, including French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, gathered in Brussels to discuss the situation in Libya. In their statement afterward, they called for a ceasefire and reengagement by both sides with the UN “to ensure a full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities”. There was no talk about the ceasefire being unconditional. They also called on the two sides “to dissociate themselves both publicly and on the ground from terrorist and criminal elements involved in the fighting, and from those suspected of war crimes, including individuals listed by the UN Security Council”.

However, a report on the meeting published by Africanews.com and attributed to Reuters news agency quoted Le Drian saying that “We need an immediate ceasefire, without preconditions. Possibly under international surveillance, since this is the wish of President Serraj, and then enter the political process, which was in fact quite close to a positive outcome, during the Abu Dhabi meeting between President Serraj and Marshal Haftar”.

A French diplomatic source, though, says that while Le Drain spoke of the importance of a ceasefire at the Brussels meeting, he did not say that it had to unconditional.

Moreover, there was nothing about one being unconditional in the official statement from the French Foreign Ministry on the meeting nor in a separate joint statement afterward from Le Drian and his Italian counterpart, Enzo Moavero Milanesi. They stressed the need for “an immediate ceasefire and the return to dialogue within the framework of the process run under the auspices of the UN”.

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