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ANALYSIS - Berlin's diplomatic efforts in Libya: What could be expected?

ANALYSIS - Berlin's diplomatic efforts in Libya: What could be expected?
Berlin has the political capital to persuade key players to support an effective political process in Libya

By Ferhat Polat

- The writer is Deputy Researcher at the TRT World Research Centre. He is a PhD researcher in North African Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in Exeter with a particular focus on Turkish Foreign Policy.

ISTANBUL (AA) - Libya’s latest civil war, almost in its sixth month now, is still raging on. Since warlord Khalifa Haftar launched his attack on Tripoli in April in order to capture the capital Tripoli, the seat of the UN-back government, the war has left more than 1,100 dead and over 100,000 displaced.

The international community has been trying to broker peace since 2014. The UN-sponsored National Conference has been a key endeavor in this context. The purpose of this conference was to bring together rival groups in an effort to find a long-lasting political solution to the crisis.

Due to Haftar’s ill-considered offensive on Tripoli, a national dialogue to reconcile Libya’s factions has been postponed, [1] and the elections that were supposed to follow the National Conference now look like an even more distant prospect. The renewed violence has undermined the capital of trust among the belligerents and dented the chances to bring a peaceful solution.

Imposing a military solution to the conflict is a mirage, as only consensus on governance and security sector arrangements among key political factions can bring genuine and long-lasting stability to the country.

Germany is expected to organize a peace conference in coordination with the UN to bring together the major stakeholders of the Libyan civil war, including warlord Haftar and UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, according to the German ambassador to Libya.[2]

Berlin believes if the violence escalates further and spreads beyond Tripoli and its environs, the consequences would not affect only Libya but also its neighbors in Africa and Europe. Recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Parliament [3] the situation in the North African country risked destabilizing the whole of Africa.

Germany wants to be involved in any potential peace process in Libya at this time because Berlin is deeply concerned that the continued deterioration of the situation in the country will lead to a larger influx of migrants and refugees to Europe. Berlin might also be concerned about France’s biased approach in favor of Haftar in Libya, which has contributed to worsening the already alarming security and humanitarian situation there.

More political actors hold that an international conference could help put the different protagonists back on track to find a political solution.

The UN has been playing a major role to mediate the conflict. The fundamental goal of its efforts was to unify Libya. As a result, the political agreement, also known as the Skhirat Agreement (LPA), [4] was signed in Dec. 2015. The agreement was aimed at transcending the country’s political divide after the eruption of civil war in mid-2014 had put an end to the transitional process. The resulting political agreement led to the establishment of a single Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj. However, the LPA soon ran into difficulties and ushered in a new phase in the conflict.

Haftar’s ambition to be the “strong man” of Libya remains the principal obstacle in unifying the country. It is widely believed that Haftar wants to control Libya through military force. He has continuously refused to abide by peace proposals and initiatives.

If it includes all local protagonists, as well as the external friends of Libya, including Turkey, Qatar, and neighboring countries, Berlin’s efforts could succeed in convincing the belligerents to agree on the UN roadmap for stabilization, unify institutions, and bring security in order to hold elections.

The stabilization of Libya must be the primary goal of any international engagement. However, many countries that are involved in the peace process have pushed their interests to manipulate developments on the ground. Such self-serving actions have led to greater uncertainty and impeded a quick resolution to the crisis. As a consequence, peace remains a distant prospect.

Libya’s fragmentation at the political and security level has effectively invited open competition for the country’s energy resources in several ways. Therefore, Germany must highlight the need for an effective plan to find practical solutions to dispose of the large number of weapons in the hands of militias.

Furthermore, Berlin must encourage specific countries to respect international law. For instance, Egypt and the UAE have been accused of breaking UN arms embargo on Libya [5] by smuggling weapons, mercenaries and extremists into Libyan territory in order to support Haftar to install a military rule in the country.

France and Italy previously hosted conferences to find a political solution and establish a unity government in Libya. However, the one-sided approach adopted by France and its insistence on sidelining key international forces killed any hopes of reaching an agreement.

However, France and other regional actors [6] (Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia) played a key role in enabling Haftar to take military action against the UN-backed government. This has prevented the GNA from imposing its authority across Libya and bringing peace and stability to the country.

Germany has influence in the European Union and beyond. Therefore, Berlin has the political capital to persuade key players to support an effective political process in Libya. Recently, Berlin hosted a meeting on Libya, [7] which was attended by the five permanent members (P5) of the U.N. Security Council as well as Turkey, Germany, Italy, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Arab League, in addition to Ghassan Salame, the U.N. special representative for Libya. During the meeting Turkey was represented by Ibrahim Kalin [8], a special advisor to the president of Turkey and the presidential spokesperson, who highlighted that “Turkey supports the U.N.-facilitated political process. A political solution is possible and necessary with the participation of all relevant actors in Libya”.

The meeting was a significant move to include relevant actors because the representation of all the forces in any peace process is of paramount importance in reaching a comprehensive and long-lasting deal. Otherwise, excluding any regional and international actors will only protract the war and diminish the prospects of a comprehensive peace deal in Libya. Negotiations and a political process are not part of Haftar's plan; he only cares about expanding his power across the country. Therefore, international and regional powers have a responsibility to reach a consensus and pressure Haftar to bring peace and stability to the country.

Twitter @Ferhattpol

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/09/un-postpones-libya-national-conference-amid-fighting-tripoli

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/13/germany-plans-libya-conference-to-shore-up-arms-embargo

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-germany/germany-aims-to-host-libya-conference-to-stabilize-oil-producer-idUSKCN1VW23S

[4] https://unsmil.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/Libyan Political Agreement - ENG .pdf

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/libya-uae-weapons-arms-embargo-khalifa-haftar-tripoli-a8872606.html

[6] https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/is-france-pushing-libya-into-further-conflict-27129

[7] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190918-turkey-supports-un-backed-political-process-in-libya/

[8] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-supports-un-backed-political-process-in-libya-146686

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