TRIPOLI: Libya’s warring and rival administrations announced in separate statements on Friday they would cease all hostilities and organise nationwide elections, a move widely welcomed by the UN and several countries.

The surprise announcement came after multiple visits by top foreign diplomats to Libya in recent weeks, resulting in the first deal between the rival authorities since a December 2015 UN-backed accord in Morocco that led to an agreement on a unity government.

The statements were signed by Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognised unity Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital Tripoli, and Aguila Saleh, speaker of the eastern-based parliament, backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The two have been at war virtually since the formation of Sarraj’s government in December 2015. ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The UN’s top official in Libya, Stephanie Williams, called for “all parties to rise to this historic occasion and shoulder their full responsibilities before the Libyan people”.

Sarraj called for the holding of “presidential and parliamentary elections next March”, and for the “end of all combat operations”.

Saleh also backed elections — though he did not specify a date — and urged “all parties” to observe “an immediate ceasefire and the cessation of all fighting.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has threatened to deploy troops in neighbouring Libya, said he supported the ceasefire declarations.

“I welcome statements by Libya’s presidential council and the House of Representatives calling for a ceasefire,” Sisi said in a tweet.

Sisi, whose government has been a major supporter of Haftar, said the two announcements would help restore stability.

Libya’s former colonial power Italy also welcomed the move, as did Germany and the Arab League.

“The announcement of the ceasefire in Libya is an important step in the re-launching of a political process that will promote the stability of the country and the welfare of the people,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

International pressure has sought to bring rival leaders to an agreement several times in past years, but has failed to secure a lasting peace.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) also welcomed Friday’s announcement, including proposals it said the rivals had made to resume production and export of oil.

Earnings from Libya’s lucrative oil fields have been a source of intense disagreement between the two sides, including a months-long blockade of oil terminals.

“NOC reiterates its call for all oil facilities to be freed from military occupation to ensure the security and safety of its workers,” the state oil producer said in a statement.

“Once this has been done, NOC should be able to… re-commence oil export operations.”

Haftar launched an offensive in April 2019 to seize Tripoli from the GNA. But the move prompted heightened intervention by Turkey and its regional ally Qatar in support of the Tripoli-based administration.