CAIRO - As forces loyal to the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli gain more ground near the capital from forces under eastern military commander General Khalifa Haftar, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sissi called for a cease-fire. Sissi urged both sides to resume dialogue. Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj also met Friday with his main backer, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Amateur video broadcast by Arab media showed forces loyal to the Tripoli government capturing Bani Walid Airport, outside Tripoli, after defenders loyal to General Khalifa Haftar withdrew to positions farther to the east of the capital. Other video showed fighters loyal to the Tripoli government consolidating control of the nearby town of Tarhuna, which they captured a day earlier.
Arab media reported that several Turkish drones bombed a convoy of vehicles that had left Tarhuna as they were approaching the coastal town of Sirte, which is still under the control of forces loyal to Gen. Haftar. Qatari-owned al Jazeera TV (Arabic) claimed that supporters of the government in Tripoli were preparing to attack Sirte, which is still under Haftar's control. VOA could not independently confirm the claim.
Meanwhile, in Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi met with General Haftar and the head of the Libyan house of representatives, Aquela Salah, and called for a cease-fire beginning Monday, June 8.
He says that Egypt's initiative is based on the respect of all international resolutions and calls for a cease-fire beginning Monday at 6 a.m., in addition to the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries from the entire country, and the dismantling of all militias to allow the Libyan Army and the security forces to exert control.
Haftar, speaking at a press conference alongside Sissi, backed Egypt's cease-fire call and urged the Egyptian president to use his influence to oblige Turkey to withdraw mercenaries it has sent to Libya.
He says that Turkey's military intervention in Libya has increased polarization both among Libyans and among countries which are involved in the conflict and have opposing interests. He urges Sissi to increase efforts to oblige Turkey to stop sending mercenaries and weapons to Libya.
Responding to the cease-fire call, Khaled al Meshri, head of the Tripoli government's "presidential council," told al Jazeera TV that "Libya doesn't need another peace initiative," and he claimed that Haftar's forces now have "suffered defeat and should not be trying to dictate the terms of an agreement."
Fayez al Sarraj, who heads the Tripoli-based "National Unity Government" met Friday with the Turkish prime minister in Ankara. Some Arab media report that Turkey has sent close to 10,000 Syrian mercenaries to fight in Libya. VOA could not independently confirm the figure.
Both the UAE and Jordan, which support General Haftar, indicated Saturday that they would support Egypt's call for a cease-fire.