Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) faction of the conflict in Libya on Thursday, rejected a ceasefire call made by Russia and Turkey previously.
In a statement delivered by LNA spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari, Haftar said that a ceasefire could only be possible after the “elimination of terrorist groups” controlling the capital, Tripoli, referring to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
“The GNA urgently wants to restore peace, and until that is possible…we will exercise our lawful right to enter into military alliances and defend our country from attack,” senior GNA adviser Mohammed Ali Abdallah said on January 9.
The GNA “welcomes any credible ceasefire proposal, but we have a duty to protect the Libyan people” from Haftar’s offensive, he said.
The joint call for a ceasefire had come after a meeting in Istanbul between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The Benghazi-based LNA took control of strategic coastal city Sirte on Monday.
The LNA launched its offensive in April to take the capital Tripoli from the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Serraj.
The LNA has received support from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. There have also been claims of support from France, although this has been denied.
The GNA has the support of Turkey and Qatar.
Russia, previously sent forces to support Haftar. Erdogan, on the other hand, said on Wednesday, Turkey has deployed 35 military personnel to Libya, but they will not take part in the conflict.
“The soldiers will not fight. Other soldiers who will be deployed later will also not enter any combat,” Hurriyet Daily News quoted as Erdogan saying.
Turkey’s parliament last week passed a motion approving a military presence in Tripoli.
British, French, German, and Italian foreign ministers condemned Turkey’s plans to intervene in the fight by sending military personnel to Tripoli on Tuesday.
Libya has been in turmoil since the ouster of country’s long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi following a 2011 Nato-backed uprising.