FILE - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is seen during an interview, at U.N. headquarters in New York, Oct. 21, 2020.
FILE - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is seen during an interview, at U.N. headquarters in New York, Oct. 21, 2020.

NEW YORK - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed a permanent and immediate nationwide cease-fire in Libya signed Friday by the two main warring parties.

“There is no military solution for the conflict in Libya,” Guterres told reporters. “This cease-fire agreement is a critical step, but there is much hard work ahead.”

The agreement calls for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and the forces of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) to pull back to their bases. The truce, which was signed under U.N. auspices in Geneva, also demands the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries within three months.

Mercenaries and fighters from Russia and Turkey have been involved in prolonging the conflict in oil-rich Libya. Other nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have intervened, sending large amounts of weapons and air support.

Troops loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government patrol the area in Zamzam, near Abu Qareen, Sept. 15, 2020.
Warring Libya Rivals Sign Truce But Tough Political Talks Ahead
The agreement was reached after the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in June beat back Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) from its 14-month assault on the capital

The cease-fire does not apply to U.N.-designated terrorist groups.

The U.N. chief congratulated the parties for “putting the interest of their nation ahead of their differences” and he appealed to all stakeholders and regional actors to respect the cease-fire and ensure its immediate implementation.

“This includes ensuring the full and unconditional respect for the Security Council arms embargo,” he said.

The parties also agreed to establish a mechanism to monitor, jointly with the U.N. mission in Libya, the implementation of the deal.

The cease-fire agreement will now be sent to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council to ensure compliance of all parties in a binding resolution.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles welcomed the cease-fire announcement and pledged EU support, saying on Twitter that it “is also a crucial step for resumption of political negotiations and hopefully a turning point in Libyan crisis.”

The agreement came out of an in-person meeting of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission talks between the two sides, which began at the U.N. in Geneva on Wednesday. It was the fourth round of negotiations held since February. The parties are working on three tracks – security, economic and political.

Libya fell into internal armed conflict after the ousting and assassination of former dictator Moammar Gaddafi in October 2011. The country has gone through cycles of violence, including having land and oil fields seized by terrorist groups, and this latest escalation, which began in April 2019, when Haftar’s LNA moved on Tripoli. Libya’s deteriorating health system has also been battling rising numbers of coronavirus cases.