On January 19, the Berlin conference on Libya brought together leaders from France, Germany, USA, Russia, Turkey, representatives of the EU, UN and many others in order to have discussions related to the future of Libya and possible solutions to the current conflict. Participation of the representatives of Libya was only confirmed days to the event. According to reports, the head of the UN-backed government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj and military leader Khalifa Haftar were not invited to participate in the main discussions, both of them reportedly left before the summit culminated.
Plight of protesters
While talks were ongoing on how to arrest the unending political flare-up in Libya, protesters gathered in front of the Reichstag, hoping that their voices would be heard by the high level politicians. Others however decried the presence of Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan in the Berlin conference. It should be noted that Turkey has resolved to send military assistance to Libya, a move that has been criticized by Libyans. Speaking prior to the summit, director of the Belgrade-based Center for Geostrategic Studies, Dragana Trifkovich said that expectations were high that the Berlin conference would become an event ensuring progress of peacebuilding and reconciliation. She quoted; “It was expected to shape the basis of a longer peace process that will ultimately lead to the de-escalation of conflict.”
According to Mrs. Dragana, for Europe, settling the situation in Libya is crucial, considering that the escalation of conflicts in the North African country has caused a migration crisis. ‘’Remember, Gaddafi warned that if Libya were destroyed, the Mediterranean would become a sea of chaos’’, she reiterates. In this regard, until the situation in the Middle East is stabilized, Europe will not be able to resolve the migrant crisis. As a solution, Mrs. Dragana writes; ‘’instead of allocating funds to the inclusion of migrants, the EU countries should invest those funds to stabilize and build countries such as Syria and Libya wrecked by seemingly unending chaos, brought about by the irresponsible policies of the Western powers. The key issue for Libya is first and foremost a security issue’’. There are a number of paramilitary organizations in the deserts of the country, many ISIS members have been evacuated from Syria to Libya, and numerous other terrorist formations are present, thus the biggest challenge is disarming these terrorist groups and regaining control of the security situation.
After critically analyzing the developments in Libya, Dragana Trifkovich settles on this; military and police must be reintegrated and put under the control of the new legally elected authorities once the conditions for holding elections in that country are met. I would welcome the initiative of Russia, which called for the countries of the region to be involved in the peace process, because certainly the problems of Libya concern the wider region. Libyan people are not required to suffer terror simply because their country is naturally rich. They must be provided with the conditions for a normal life and development, with the right to use their natural resources on their own. The colonial pretensions of the Western countries led to a ruthless exploitation of Africa that they never wanted to give up”.
As an outcome of the Berlin conference, it was decided that the Libyan issue is to be resolved outside of Libya based on three key topics: economic meetings in Tunisia to be held in 3-5 weeks (to document the reform of the Central Bank, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Libyan Investment Authority (Fund)); a “5x5” format military council consisting of representatives of Haftar and al-Sarraj, five from each, in Geneva (this format was initially offered during the meetings in Moscow on January 13); and further political dialogue at the global arena. That implies that all the issues are resolved outside of Libya and the main concern of the global actors is not the difficult humanitarian situation in the country, but where the oil revenues would flow.
Unfortunately, the format of the Berlin conference was designed in a way in which the Libyan delegates were quite ignored rather than being accepted as equal partners, neither Haftar nor al-Sarraj had a chance to share their opinions during the final press conference.
The minister of foreign affairs of Russia, Sergei Lavrov pointed out that the negotiators had rejected Russia’s proposal to include Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar in the main list of the participants. Lavrov also added that the representatives of the neighbouring countries had been included in that very list according to the Russia’s initiative. In addition, he stated that, despite some violations, the ceasefire in Libya suggested on January 8, 2020 was generally respected.
Overall, the proposals released as the outcomes of the Berlin conference are very similar to the Skhirat agreements of 2015, which means that not much progress has been made in the last 5 years.
“The strongest political authority in Libya now is in the hands of General Haftar, who holds the eastern part of Libya under control and commands units of the regular Libyan army, - says Dragana Trifkovich, - “He could play a major role in the country's security reforms under the peace plan. As far as the political mandate for organizing elections is concerned, I think that the participants in the peace process must reach a consensus. The best solution would be to set up an international commission to organize elections in Libya through the peace process, thus overcoming the problem of illegitimacy of the Government of National Accord. This international commission would have to provide normal conditions for holding a free election in which all political factors would enjoy equal conditions. Giving a mandate to the Government of National Accord to organize elections could only increase tensions in the country as according to Skhirat Agreements it was supposed to happen by 2017 when its mandate expired”.