Tripoli: Prospects for an imminent truce in oil-rich Libya dimmed after forces loyal to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar scoffed at the United Nations-backed government’s announcement of a cease-fire as “media marketing.”
Haftar’s Libyan National Army didn’t explicitly say, however, whether it would accept or reject the initiative announced Friday by the government in Tripoli.
The LNA is ready to defend Sirte, a central city that’s the gateway to the OPEC member’s key oil assets, spokesman Ahmed Al Mismari said Sunday in a televised address. Intelligence received by Haftar’s forces suggests the Tripoli government still intends to “attack our forces in the regions of Sirte and Jufra,” he said.
Friday’s ceasefire announcement by the government in Tripoli, and a reciprocal call from the head of the eastern-based parliament, followed UN-mediated talks seeking to end almost a decade of conflict in the North African nation.
Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but its output and exports have dwindled amid fighting and a blockade of oil ports by Haftar supporters. The country pumped just 100,000 barrels a day in July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, a fraction of the 1.6 million it produced before the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar Al Qaddafi.
The LNA fell back to Sirte after a failed offensive to capture Tripoli, the capital and home to the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord. The two sides have been poised at Sirte for a potentially decisive battle for control of the nation.