Libyan peace process

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The Libyan peace process is a series of meetings, agreements and actions that aim to resolve the Second Libyan Civil War. Among these are the Skhirat agreement of December 2015[1] and the plans for the Libyan National Conference in April 2019[2] that were delayed because of the 2019–20 Western Libya offensive.[3]

In July 2019, Ghassan Salamé, the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), proposed a three-point peace plan, to consist of a ceasefire, an international meeting of implicated countries for enforcing the arms embargo and an internal Libyan conference[3] composed of economic, military and political "tracks".[4] A several-day ceasefire took place on Eid al-Adha in mid-August 2019[3] and a ceasefire was declared by both the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) to start on 12 January 2020.[5] A conference between representatives of Mediterranean Basin powers implicated in the Libyan armed conflict as well as Algeria, the Republic of Congo and major world powers took place in Berlin on 19 January 2020,[6] declaring a 55-point list of Conclusions, creating a military 5+5 GNA+LNA followup committee, and an International Follow-up Committee to monitor progress in the peace process.[7] In parallel, a 6 January meeting in Tunis between a diverse selection of 19 Libyan economic experts launched one of the three tracks of the intra-Libyan negotiations.[4]

2015 Skhirat agreement[edit]

During the first half of 2015, the United Nations facilitated a series of negotiations seeking to bring together the rival governments of Libya and warring militias tearing Libya apart.[8] The U.N. representative to Libya reconvened delegations from Libya's rival governments on 8 June 2015 to present the latest draft proposal for a unity government for the war-torn country.[8] After a warning one week earlier that the country was running out of money and had risked ceasing to be a functional state, Bernardino Leon urged at a ceremony in Morocco that the Libyans approve the fourth version of the proposal.[8] On 8 October 2015, Bernardino Leon held a press conference in which the names of several potential members of a unified government were announced.[1]

A meeting between the rival governments was held at Auberge de Castille in Valletta, Malta on 16 December 2015. The meeting was delayed for a few days after the representatives from the Tobruk government initially failed to show up.[9] The leader of the Tripoli government, Nouri Abusahmain, announced that they "will not accept foreign intervention against the will of the Libyan people," while the leader of the Tobruk government Aguila Saleh Issa called on the international community to "allow [them] time to form an effective unity government." Representatives from both governments also met officials from the United Nations, Italy, the United States and Russia in a conference in Rome.[10]

On 17 December 2015, delegates from both rival governments signed a peace deal backed by the UN in Skhirat, Morocco, although there was opposition to this within both factions.[11][12] The Government of National Accord was formed as a result of this agreement, and its first meeting took place in Tunis on 2 January 2016.[13]

On 17 December 2017, general Khalifa Haftar declared the Skhirat agreement void.[14]

2018 Palermo Conference[edit]

The Palermo Conference was a two-day international conference which took place in Palermo, Italy on 12–13 November 2018 to support the holding of the Libyan National Conference and national elections in 2019.[15]

2019 Libyan National Conference[edit]

A meeting, called the Libyan National Conference, was planned in Ghadames for organising elections and a peace process in Libya.[16] The conference was prepared over 18 months during 2018 and 2019 and was planned to take place 14–16 April 2019.[2] It was postponed in early April 2019 as a result of the military actions of the 2019 Western Libya offensive.[17]

Salamé three-point peace plan[edit]

On 29 July 2019, Ghassan Salamé, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), proposed a three-point peace plan to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which would "require consensus in [the UNSC] and amongst the Member States who exert influence on the ground" and require Libyans "to listen to their better angels" rather than "[fight] the wars of others and in so doing [destroy] their country."[18] Salamé's plan includes:

  1. a truce between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Libyan National Army (LNA) and their associated militias on Eid al-Adha, along with confidence-building measures such as prisoner exchanges, releasing arbitrarily detained prisoners and exchanging the remains of victims of the conflict;[18]
  2. an international meeting of countries implicated in the conflict, to stop the fighting, implement the legally existing arms embargo, and promote the following of international human rights law;[18]
  3. a Libyan meeting similar to the originally planned Libyan National Conference;[18] which should include three tracks:[4]
    • an economic track;[4]
    • a military track;[4] and
    • a political track.[4]

Ceasefires[edit]

Eid al-Adha truce[edit]

A truce took place on Eid al-Adha in mid-August 2019. Salamé described it as a "substantial reduction in violence along the main fronts in southern Tripoli and elsewhere" with "some violations" and that "broadly speaking, the truce held for the duration of the Eid festivities."[3] Salamé stated to the UNSC that UNSMIL was working on encouraging confidence-building measures and a longer term ceasefire.[3]

12 January 2020 ceasefire[edit]

In early January 2020, Turkish and Russian leaders proposed a Libyan ceasefire starting on 12 January. Russian president Vladimir Putin contacted United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egpytian leaders to pressure Haftar into accepting a ceasefire from the side of the LNA.[19] An LNA spokesperson stated on 12 January that the LNA would implement the ceasefire. The Libya Observer interpreted the LNA's decision to be a result of Russian pressure.[20] Both sides claimed to have implemented the ceasefire, and that the other side had violated it.[5]

On 15 January, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar stated that although Haftar had not signed a ceasefire deal in Moscow that Serraj had signed, it was "too early" to judge if the ceasefire had failed.[21] Libya Herald reported a "relative calm" with "some ceasefire violations" each day since 12 January.[22] On 16 January, German representatives stated that Haftar was committed to the ceasefire.[23]

Berlin conference[edit]

Preparations[edit]

On 4 September 2019, Salamé stated to the UNSC that he had visited several countries in the region with the aim of organising an international conference that would fulfil the second element of his peace plan. He stressed that a central theme of the meeting would be respect for the arms embargo, a commitment to non-interference in Libya, and a commitment to supporting Libyans' view of the conflict and Libyans' preferences for a political solution to the conflict. Salamé argued that "the idea that war should be given a chance and that a military solution is at all possible is quite simply a chimera."[3] In mid-September, a preparation meeting was held in Berlin between representatives of Germany, the United States (US), France, United Kingdom (UK), Italy, Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE),[24] Turkey,[25] the Arab League, the European Union (EU),[24] and the African Union (AU).[25] According to Michel Cousins (co-founder of Libya Herald), as of early October, the plan was that no Libyans would participate in the conference, and participation of Qatar, Algeria and Tunisia remained unclear. On 8 October, Salamé stated that all countries concerned had to be invited "without any exclusion".[26]

The third Senior Official Meeting in preparation for the Berlin meeting took place on 21 October.[27] On 27 October, during a visit by the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to Zuwara to discuss preparations for the Berlin conference, Salamé stated, "The Berlin conference efforts are very serious and are backed by very significant stakeholders. There must be a committee that would be tasked with following up on the implementation of all understandings and this is something all previous conferences have lacked." The Libyan Foreign Minister, Mohamed Taha Siala, said that there should be a ceasefire and a retreat of LNA forces before negotiations. Maas stated that the peace process should be conducted without foreign intervention.[28] The fourth Senior Official Meeting was planned for 20 November.[27] Concrete aims of the Berlin meeting included a formal communiqué of intended actions (prepared as a draft communiqué during the Senior Official Meetings), an operational annex, and the creation of a committee to work with UNSMIL in implementing the aims of the communiqué and in "[playing] a fundamental role in terms of ensuring respect for a ceasefire and better implementation of the arms embargo."[27]

At a fifth preparation meeting on 10 December 2019, two documents were "to a very large extent ready" to be proposed for signature by the political leaders expected to participate in the Berlin conference.[29]

Final preparation phase[edit]

In early January 2020, Italian, Turkish, Russian and German political leaders expressed support for the Berlin conference, and for Algeria's participation in the conference in its role as a neighbouring country.[30][31][32] German chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed 19 January 2020 as the date for the Berlin conference, to include representatives of the US, Russia, UK, France, the People's Republic of China, the UAE, Turkey, the Republic of Congo, Italy, Egypt, Algeria, and of the UN, the EU, the AU and the Arab League.[33] GNA head Serraj and LNA head Haftar were invited to the Berlin conference.[22]

Conference and Conclusions[edit]

The Libya Summit in Berlin, Germany on 19 January 2020

The Berlin conference was held on 19 January 2020 as planned. Serraj and Haftar were both present in Berlin, but didn't participate directly in the main talks, as they refused to be in the same room as one another. They were kept informed of the discussions.[6]

A 6-page Conclusions document with 55 points covering the peace process was issued to represent the results of the conference.[7] Point 5 of the document described the "sole objective" of the conference, termed the Berlin Process, as "assisting the United Nations in unifying the International Community in their support for a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis" and committing the countries and international bodies present at the conference to support the 3-point Salamé peace plan. The document includes subsections on the components of the peace process:[7]

  • the "ceasefire";
  • the "arms embargo";
  • an intra-Libyan "return to the political process" including the Skhirat agreement as a "viable framework";
  • "security sector reform" for creating unified security, police and military forces under a single civilian authority "building upon the Cairo talks";
  • "economic and financial reform";
  • "respect for international humanitarian law and human rights";
  • "follow-up", including the creation of a military "5+5" committee and an "International Follow-up Committee" (IFC).

Point 51 of the Conclusions stated that Sarraj on behalf of the GNA and Haftar on behalf of the LNA had already nominated their respective representatives on the military 5+5 committee.[7]

Points 54, 55 and 56 defined the International Follow-up Committee to "[consist] of all countries and International Organisations that participated in [the] Berlin Conference on Libya in order to maintain coordination ... under the aegis of the United Nations". The IFC is required to meet monthly to track progress in the implementation of the Conclusions, and to have four technical working groups to meet twice a month to "address obstacles to implementation" and to share information and coordinate.[7]

Intra-Libyan preparations[edit]

In support of internal Libyan conflict resolution infrastructure, UNSMIL held three mediation workshops for 97 Libyan men and 23 Libyan women, with the aim of creating a national network of mediators including "tribal leaders, elders, representatives of civil society, youth and women activists, academics and businesspeople, who enjoy credibility and respect amongst their various constituencies."[27] On 11 January, Stephanie Williams, deputy head of UNSMIL for political affairs, discussed with Khalid al-Mishri, head of the High Council of State (HCS), inviting the HCS to a late-January meeting between the HCS and the House of Representatives (HoR) in Geneva for the purposes of "resuming dialogue".[34]

Economic track[edit]

On 6 January 2020, Ghassan Salamé coordinated a meeting in Tunis among nineteen Libyan economic experts intended to represent the main Libyan financial and economic institutions and sectors and a wide range of political interests and geographical regions. Salamé stated UNSMIL's aim of starting all three of the economic, military and political "Libyan-led" tracks of negotiations in January 2020.[4] He stated that the 6 January meeting constituted that start of the economic track.[35]

Military track[edit]

On 7 January 2020, Salamé expressed hope that negotiations on the military and security track would start within the following fortnight. These would cover a ceasefire, the arms embargo, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), and "terrorism and counterterrorism".[29]

At the 19 January Berlin conference, a military "5+5 committee" proposed by UNSMIL, with 5 members appointed each by Sarraj and Haftar, was defined in point 51 of the Conclusions of the conference.[7] The 10 members were named at the conference and were expected to start meeting the following week.[36] Salamé considers the 5+5 committee to be part of the military track. On 20 January, he described the main task of the committee as "[working] on sending away foreign fighters from Libya as soon as possible".[35]

Political track[edit]

On 7 January 2020, Salamé stated his expectation that the political dialogue track would start by late January, possibly at the Palace of Nations in Geneva.[29] At the 19 January Berlin conference, the GNA and LNA agreed to participate in a Geneva meeting on the political track "soon".[37]

On 20 January, Salamé stated that the late-January meeting would include thirteen representatives of the House of Representatives (HoR) and thirteen of the High Council of State (HCS); and "independent persons" including women and minority representatives. The political track negotiations would be open to "all issues", including the 2017 draft Libyan constitution, electoral laws and dates and "maybe" an agreement on holding elections in a nationally unified way.[35]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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