Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar has rejected calls for a ceasefire by Turkey and Russia, insisting that he would continue the offensive against forces of the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli.
Haftar claimed in a statement read by his spokesman, Ahmad al-Mesmari, on Thursday that the North African country's stability and a revival of the political process could only be assured by the "eradication of terrorist groups" and the dissolution of forces controlling the capital.
"We welcome [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's call for a ceasefire. However, our fight against terrorist organizations that seized Tripoli and received support of some countries will continue until the end," al-Mesmari said on a video posted to social media.
Backed by Egypt and the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Haftar's forces and an array of militia groups loyal to the self-proclaimed Libyan commander launched an offensive against the capital last April to unseat the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) under Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, which was quickly repelled on the city’s outskirts.
More than 1,000 people have been killed since the start of Haftar's military operation and at least 5,000 others wounded, according to the UN.
The Turkish and Russian presidents urged a ceasefire in Libya by January 12 following a meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday, with the GNA welcoming the ceasefire call and saying it was ready for a return to the political process.
“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 in a statement.
The GNA “welcomes any credible ceasefire proposal, but we have a duty to protect the Libyan people” from Haftar’s offensive, he added.
Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two rival camps: one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the other, the internationally-recognized government of Sarraj, in the capital, Tripoli.
The Turkish government is among those who support the GNA in Tripoli. Ankara recently deployed 35 troops in Tripoli to that end.
Libya has been the scene of chaos since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention.