Libya: from Berlin to Bouznika, the political solution is gaining ground

What has happened since the international summit on Libya held in Germany in January 2020? It is to follow up on this meeting – during which participants from both sides agreed to respect an arms embargo – that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, co-chaired an online press conference this Monday, October 5 with other representatives of international organizations to take stock. It was on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

What should be remembered? In its conclusion, Germany, on the front line in the search for a political settlement of the conflict in Libya, said it was “cautiously optimistic” on the chances of reaching a result after the resumption of discussions between belligerents in September. . “There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic,” said the German foreign minister. “We believe that there is a window in which much of what was not possible in recent weeks is now,” he added, highlighting “signs of a shift in logic military to a political logic ”between the belligerents.

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Impulses for a resumption of dialogue….

Libya has been plagued by violence and power struggles since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. Two authorities are vying for power: the Government of National Unity (GNA, recognized by the UN) in the West, based in the capital Tripoli, and the powerful Marshal Khalifa Haftar in the east. In June, the GNA, aided militarily by Turkey, succeeded in thwarting an offensive by Marshal Haftar’s forces launched in April 2019 to seize Tripoli. The GNA now controls the north-west of the country.

Hopes for a political resolution to the crisis have grown since the two main warring factions separately announced in August that they would cease hostilities. Then, a series of talks backed by the UN was put in place to make this promise concrete. Germany has particularly distinguished itself by increasing diplomatic efforts to try to bring the belligerents back to a lasting ceasefire and to political negotiations, as well as their regional support for compliance with the arms embargo.

It has already organized an international conference on Libya in January in Berlin around the non-interference of regional actors and respect for the embargo, which have so far remained a dead letter.

At the beginning of September, interlibyan “consultations” in Montreux, Switzerland, potentially opened the way to a new dynamic by leading to an agreement on elections in 18 months.

“Recent developments represent a rare opportunity to make real progress in the search for peace and stability in Libya,” also said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who co-chaired the meeting.

The “parallel” government installed in the east, in the process, resigned on September 13 and the Prime Minister of the Government of national unity, Fayez el-Sarraj, said he was ready to leave his functions by end of October, so many “impulses” for a resumption of dialogue, underlined the boss of the UN.

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… hampered by embargo violations

However, the head of German diplomacy once again insisted, like the UN Secretary General, on respecting the arms embargo as a preamble to any return to peace negotiations. “We will not get out of the military impasse as long as an influx of arms and men is brought to the belligerents”, hammered Heiko Maas.

These violations are “scandalous”, added Antonio Guterres, asking that they cease “immediately”. The government of Fayez el-Sarraj (GNA) is supported by Turkey and Qatar. His opponent, Marshal Khalifa Haftar, is supported on his side by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.

All parties are increasingly receiving military aid from their international backers, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Jordan against Turkey and Qatar – notably cited according to an interim report by UN experts dating back to the end August, which was the subject of numerous leaks.

UN Acting Special Envoy Stephanie Williams said weapons, mercenaries and equipment “are still pouring into Libya … from both sides”. This “risks making miscalculations on the ground” and constitutes “a direct threat to Libya’s neighbors,” she said. ” There are nine countries involved in the Libyan conflict, ”Williams said, without naming names. “They must all end the violations of the arms embargo. “

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Interlibyan dialogue acclaimed in Morocco

Beyond the question of the embargo, progress has been noted in terms of interlibyan dialogue, in which no one believed until a few months ago. In the wake of Montreux, parliamentarians from the two rival camps, that is to say from the Libyan High Council of State on the one hand and the Parliament of Tobruk on the other, met in Bouznika, a Moroccan seaside resort. to continue discussions in order to give new impetus to the efforts and initiatives aimed at finding a political solution to the Libyan crisis. These meetings, the first round of which took place in September, take place in application of article 15 of the Libyan political agreement concluded in Skhirat in December 2015 and in accordance with the conclusions of the Berlin conference. “At the beginning, no one was betting on the Interlibyan Dialogue while some have already accused it of failure”, underlined the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, during a meeting of these talks, in the presence of the members of the two delegations and the United Nations representative in Morocco. “Morocco, which works under the aegis of the United Nations, prefers to support the interlibyan dialogues rather than those around Libya, the first being fundamental and the second complementary”, added the head of the Cherifian diplomacy. These negotiations, conducted under the aegis of the Kingdom of Morocco, resulted in decisive measures on the part of the warring parties, namely: a preliminary agreement aimed at leading the country towards elections within 18 months and at demilitarizing the disputed city from Sirte. They also agreed to exchange prisoners and open air and land transit through the country’s divided territory. As a final sign of unblocking, Marshal Haftar also authorized the reopening of vital oil facilities last month, allowing production for the first time since powerful tribes loyal to him closed oil fields and terminals in January 2020. For the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, the progress of the interlibyan dialogue has created expectations among the populations, in particular in the context of the global health crisis which has accentuated the economic crisis in the country.

On the military side, negotiations at the end of September in Egypt between military representatives of the two camps also began to prepare the ground for a lasting ceasefire.

The UN is now preparing a “series of meetings and consultations” to facilitate the resumption of talks with a view to “a comprehensive political agreement,” acting UN envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams told Monday. ‘after the second round of discussions in Bouznika, near Rabat. Asked about the possibility of political discussions from October 15 in Geneva, she replied that she wanted them “as soon as possible, preferably before the end of the month”.

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