Paris meeting: A breakthrough for peace in Libya

Thursday, 2018-05-31 11:32:30
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UN Envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, French President Emmanuel Macron and French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. (Reuters)
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NDO – Rival Libyan factions recently gathered at an international meeting in Paris, hosted by the French President Emmanuel Macron, in an attempt to break the political deadlock in the North African country. At the meeting, the Libyan factions reached a compromise, agreeing to hold parliamentary and presidential elections later this year. It is a necessary breakthrough to find solutions to the crisis that has lasted for more than seven years in Libya.

The Paris meeting between the rival Libyan factions took place under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), as a continuation of the efforts made by the international community and the UN since 2011, seeking to open up a new stage of stability and cooperation for all Libyan people. The Libyan officials and international delegates were invited to attend this rare event to work out a political path towards ending the seven-year-old turmoil, which has already severely affected Libya and the region.

The opposition parties having agreed to conduct the parliamentary and presidential elections this December 10 is a surprising result, as there still remain many differences. At the end of the four-hour peace conference in Paris, representatives of the factions, including Prime Minister Fayez Seraj, the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli; Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the eastern-based opposition government; Aguila Saleh, the speaker of Libya’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives; and Khaled Al-Mishri, president of the High Council of State, signed a joint declaration. Accordingly, the parties agreed to lay down a constitutional basis for the elections and will pass the necessary voting rules this September 16. The declaration emphasised that the parties pledged to accept the election results, while ensuring security and agreeing to improve the atmosphere in preparation for the upcoming elections.

A path towards peace is gradually developing for Libya after a long period of deadlock. The North African nation has fallen into a serious crisis since the wake of the “Arab Spring” and the war launched by the West to overthrow the Muammar al-Gaddafi regime. Seven springs have gone by, but Libya has yet to restore security and stability due to the divisions among the factions and tribes. Libya has at times been divided by two governments, two parliaments and many military groups, with each of them reigning in a different region. Regardless of the peace agreement reached in 2015, Libya is still engulfed in violence, chaos and political divisions. There are currently two governments in the country with their own armed forces, including the GNA, led by PM Fayez Seraj, operating in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar’s opposition government in the eastern part of the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, after the participants of the International Conference on Libya listened to a verbal agreement between the various parties regarding the organisation of a democratic election this year at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. (Reuters)

Many areas in Libya continue to be caught up in a circle of conflict, as rebel groups repeatedly launch attacks on oil bases, causing serious impacts on the production of the previously third largest oil exporter in the region. The eastern army recently set the highest level of security alert against the threats of terrorist attacks on oil mines and oilfields in the country. Meanwhile, the southern region is also becoming the centre of conflict. The spokesperson of the UN-backed Libyan government said that the Libyan government was willing to work with all parties in order to ensure security for the southern region against the cross-border penetration of foreign smuggling and cockroach networks. The Tripoli administration’s failure in taking control of nationwide security has made Libya a terrorist training centre of the region, as well as a transit hub for the ships trafficking migrants from Africa to Europe. Libya’s Mediterranean Coast is no longer peaceful as it has become the origin of illegal migrants.

Libya’s neighbors, including Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt are concerned that the delay in finding a political solution in Libya will escalate violence and threaten regional stability. They have consistently supported the implementation of the UN’s peace roadmap in Libya. French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed that the rival Libyan factions reaching an agreement in Paris on the organisation of elections in December is a significant step towards reconciliation. He emphasised that the gathering of the four rival leaders of Libya at the Paris conference was a “historic meeting” under the auspices of the international community. A new door of hope for peace in Libya is being opened, despite the thorny path ahead.