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A destroyed neighbourhood in Sirte, Libya, January 22, 2020. Rival political leaders in Libya announced an immediate cease-fire on August 21 and called for talks to demilitarise Sirte, the seaside city that has become the focus of international efforts to break the stalemated conflict in the oil-rich but dysfunctional North African nation. Image Credit: NYT

Cairo: The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have wel-comed ceasefire declarations by two rival leaders in Libya, hoping the step will end years of strife in the country.

On Friday, Fayez Al Seraj, the prime minister of the Libyan government based in the capital Tripoli and Aguila Saleh, the speaker of a rival elected parliament based in the east, called for an all-out ceasefire, cessation of military hostilities, restart of a political process and resumption of oil production and exports.

Saleh backs Gen Khalifa Haftar, the chief of the Libyan National Army based in Libya’s east.

“The declaration of a ceasefire and a halt to military operations in all Libyan lands is a very positive development,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said.

“It is time for guns to fall silent as the solution in sisterly Libya is invariably political through an inclusive dialogue based on agreed international and regional terms of reference,” Gargash added in a tweet.

In their separate statements, Al Seraj and Saleh also attempted to resolve a standoff over the Haftar-controlled city of Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s region of Oil Crescent.

Al Seraj called for demilitarising the coastal city under special security arrangements with the eastern rivals. Saleh, meanwhile, proposed basing a new ruling presidential council in Sirte to be secured by a national police force.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the declarations of both leaders and urged Libyans to “initiate a dialogue to lay down a foundation for a durable solution”.

Voicing similar welcome, Kuwait urged all Libyans to respond to the latest call. “This can help reach a lasting and comprehensive solution, ending infighting and conflict in Libya,” a source at the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry described as a “crucial step” the declarations made by Saleh and Al Seraj.

The ministry emphasised in a statement the “necessity of all parties to the raging conflict in Libya to be committed to this blessed step” to stop foreign intervention in the country.

Turkey, an ally of the Tripoli-based administration, has recently raised concerns in the region by its attempts to establish a foothold in Libya.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi recently threatened direct military intervention in neighbouring Libya, saying Sirte is a “red line” for his country’s security. Al Sissi has hailed the Saleh-Al Seraj declarations, calling them an “important step on the road to political settlement”.

Libya has descended into chaos since Col Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 armed revolt.