August 21, 2020 saw Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi invite the Libyan warring parties to declare a cessation of all the hostilities throughout the country and hold an election in the nearest possible time, considering this an important move towards political settlement.
The same day, head of the Libyan Parliament Akilya Saleh loyal to commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and leader of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj officially agreed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections immediately after the ceasefire. The UN support mission in Libya was informed about the decision.
Commenting on the agreements, Akilya Saleh explained that elections require a complete withdrawal of foreign (Turkish) troops, all the illegal armed groups and mercenaries from the country. Failure to comply with these requirements will make the process of political settlement impossible: a significant part of Libyan territories is occupied by foreign forces. At the same time, any "demilitarized zone" in eastern Libya is out of the question.
In turn, the GNA governing council urged an election in March 2021, guided by "political and national responsibility dictated by the need to consider the current situation in the country and the region (the spread of coronavirus). An effective ceasefire requires that the Sirte and Al-Jufra regions become demilitarized, and the police forces from both sides agree on security arrangements within them."
The statement by Fayez al-Sarraj's government also provides for a resumed production, processing, and transportation of oil and petroleum products inside and outside the country. At the same time, all proceeds should go to the GNA-controlled Central Bank of Libya.
The Libyan National Army leadership rejected Fayez al-Sarraj's proposals. Speaking to foreign journalists in Benghazi on August 23, Libyan army spokesman General Ahmad al-Mismari described them as Ankara-coordinated propaganda haggling. He stressed that on August 20-23 army intelligence detected a number of radical militia units, foreign mercenaries, guided missile frigates and other Turkish Navy ships moving towards Sirte, which implies an offensive being prepared. Heavy transport aircraft carrying militants and military supplies continue to arrive from Turkey at airfields in Tripoli, Misrata and al-Watiya.
Thus, despite the demonstrated commitment to ending the armed conflict and starting a political process, the parties lay down mutually unacceptable conditions for achieving the initiative by President al-Sisi of Egypt. As of today, the Libyan and foreign rivals are not ready to cut corners and keep preparing vigorously for the resumption of hostilities.
The Egyptian initiative alone is a mere reflection of Cairo's firm stance to defend the LNA, and it should be deemed as yet another solemn warning to Ankara. Despite pressure from the United States, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will unlikely abandon plans to neutralize major formations of Islamic radicals in the neighboring country, who will undoubtedly rush help their Muslim Brotherhood allies in Egypt after the alleged victory over Marshal Haftar's troops.
And until the pro-Turkish militant groups launch an offensive on Sirte and al-Jufra, "unidentified" warplanes will always shoot the enemy attempting to violate the "red line" drawn by Egypt.