Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) Friday released a ceasefire announcement that said he "issued instructions to all military forces to immediately cease fire and all combat operations in all Libyan territories." However, the statement added, "A ceasefire requires the areas of Sirte and al-Jufra to be demilitarized within security arrangements." The GNA and Turkey rejected an Egyptian June 6 ceasefire proposal and peace plan on the grounds that talks can only resume when Sirte and al-Jufra airbase are in GNA hands. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi subsequently warned the fall of Sirte or al-Jufra airbase constitutes a "red line" that could trigger direct military intervention.
Aguila Saleh, speaker of the rival Tobruk-based government allied with Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), also issued a ceasefire announcement Friday. Each ceasefire statement included proposals for creating one sovereign authority in Libya. Al-Sarraj's statement called for presidential and parliamentary elections next March based on "an adequate constitutional platform agreed upon among Libyans." Saleh proposed making Sirte the seat of a "new presidential council, which should bring all Libyans together," to be "secured by an official police force from all regions of the country in preparation for unifying state institutions." While each statement endorsed the LNA lifting an oil blockade imposed in mid-January, Khalifa Haftar did not comment on Friday's ceasefire declarations, suggesting he may not terminate hostilities.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Libya last Monday to promote a ceasefire involving a demilitarized zone around Sirte. Yet, his efforts appeared fruitless since Qatari Defense Minister Khalid al-Attiyah promised, after he and his Turkish counterpart visited Tripoli last Monday, Doha would dispatch military advisors to help the GNA in its war against the LNA.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday Turkey's discovery of 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the Black Sea and his hope to begin production by 2023. On Wednesday, Erdogan said he would announce Friday "the beginning of a new era" for the nation, which has a $35-50 billion annual energy import bill. Underwhelmed by the discovery's size and questions regarding how much of the gas is recoverable, Turkish energy companies' shares fell dramatically after the news while the lira traded 0.6 percent lower per dollar as of 10:15 PM in Istanbul. In his speech, Erdogan refused to defuse a two-week standoff between the Turkish navy, escorting drilling vessels in Greek and Cypriot waters, and the Greek navy, backed up by French warships. "We are determined to solve our energy issue," Erdogan insisted. "We will not stop until we become a net exporter of energy."
On Friday, President Erdogan decreed the reconversion of Istanbul's 11th century Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior in Chora into a mosque. Vizier Hadim Ali Pasha converted the church into a mosque in 1511, but the secular Turkish Republic turned it into a museum in 1945. Turkey's Council of State, the country's top administrative court, ruled in 2019 that the decision to convert the mosque into a museum was unlawful. Turkey faced widespread international criticism last month for converting the more famous Hagia Sophia, once the episcopal see of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, into a mosque.
13 out of the UN Security Council's 15 members submitted letters Friday asserting the US forfeited its right to trigger snapback sanctions on Iran for Tehran violating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) when the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a letter to the UN Security Council's President Thursday advocating reimposing sanctions because Iran is "in significant non-performance of its JCPOA commitments." The Dominican Republic was the only Security Council member not to express an opinion on Pompeo's letter. Similarly, on August 14, only the Dominican Republic joined the US in voting for a Security Council resolution to extend the 13-year-old UN arms embargo on Iran, which Security Council Resolution 2231 scheduled to end in October 2020 as long as Tehran adhered to the JCPOA.
Activists demanding Iraq's parliament fire Basra Province's Governor Asaad al-Eidani in response to two activists' assassination over the past week torched parliament's Basra office. Unidentified gunmen Wednesday assassinated Basra activist Reham Yacoub, whom Iranian media tarred as an American agent recruited to "destroy the image" of Iran-backed militias in Iraq and organize riots. That followed the August 14 murder of Tahseen Osama, a leading figure in the anti-corruption protests that broke out last October. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi removed Basra's police and national security chiefs Monday and ordered an investigation into the targeted killings. The Fatah bloc, affiliated with pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Forces militias, unsuccessfully endorsed al-Eidani for prime minister last December.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum