GP Insights # 237, 27 January 2020
In the news
A key summit was held in Berlin, Germany on 19 January 2020 to discuss the future of Libya and to uphold a UN arms embargo ending military backing for the North African country's warring groups. Heads of state and lawmakers from Russia, Algeria, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, Britain, China, and the US participated in this meeting. Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), were also invited to the conference, however, both refused to sit or meet with each other amid tensions between the two parties.
An agreement was signed which called for international efforts that would monitor and implement the plan for stricter enforcement of the UN arms embargo. Angela Merkel who hosted this meet said a "new spirit" has been shaped to find a lasting solution to the conflict in Libya. Further, stating that the people of Libya must get their right to a peaceful life.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seconded the world powers to "refrain from interference" in Libya. However, the situation is complicated due to the split in support, Turkey vouched for their support to the government in Tripoli, on the other hand, countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia are backing Haftar, and are more or less openly providing him with military assistance.
The European Union is divided in their stance of Libya, France supports Haftar, while Italy is close to Sarraj.
Issues at large
First, Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 uprising which ousted long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi, further giving rise to various factions and militias taking advantage of the power vacuum to secure territory and control of Africa's largest oil reserves.
Second, General Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) controls much of eastern Libya, and in April of 2019, he launched an offensive against the country's rival Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital, Tripoli. His forces have so far not been able to take over the city, however, on 6 January 2020, the LNA captured the country's third-biggest city, Sirte which is a key strategic gain.
Third, the conflict has gone to killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands from their homes. A truce was announced earlier this month between Gen Haftar and the GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
Fourth, a UN arms embargo has been put in place since 2011, but enforcement has been weak and foreign powers have supplied their Libyan allies. The role of foreign states in the conflict has come into focus in recent months, with Turkey passing a controversial law to deploy troops to help GNA forces in Tripoli and attempts by Moscow broker a lasting ceasefire.
First, the conference is an attempt to restore stability and peace to Libya, yet the participation of so many major powers involved in the conflict highlights the urgency to stop the violence. However, the future of what was agreed upon would only depend on the good faith of the signatories and their ability to put pressure on their Libyan allies, both of which remain uncertain.
Second, the means to achieving peace in Libya must be handled appropriately, the use of military force would only aggravate the issue, a political solution of which frameworks already exist in Libya have to be implemented at the earliest to ensure that conflict can come to an end.