Boosted efforts to prevent conflict from spreading in Libya

Monday, 2020-01-20 16:25:05
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General view of the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – An international conference on Libya has just taken place in Berlin, Germany, with the hope of preventing conflict in the North African country, in the context that the increasing tension in Libya is likely to turn it into “the second Syria.”

With world leaders as well as representatives from the two rival factions in Libya present at the summit, Berlin wanted to show a mediating role to find a way out of the protracted crisis that threatens the security interests of not only Libya but also the whole of Europe across the Mediterranean.

The Berlin conference attracted the attendance of Special Representative of UN Secretary General Ghassan Salame, the Presidents of Russia, France and Turkey, the US Secretary of State, and many other leaders of countries in the region, along with the head of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar. The event was considered an opportunity for the powers and the two rival factions in Libya to promote a deep political dialogue under the auspices of the UN. The host country invited representatives of 11 nations to attend the conference to call for a consensus to end the intervention of foreign forces, amid the growing international divide over Libya’s issues.

The situation in Libya has seriously deteriorated since Turkey decided to deploy its troops on the call of GNA, the current UN-supported government in Libya. Many countries have voiced their opposition and expressed concern that Ankara's intervention could make the situation in Libya more confusing. The Arab Parliament, the legislative body of the Arab League, has expressed opposition to any Turkish military intervention in Libya, stating that it would incite conflict and divisions between the parties, while threatening the stability in the region and other neighbouring nations. Libya is currently in a state of escalating political division and violence as it has two coexisting governments with their own armed forces. The GNA is supported by Turkey and Qatar, while General Haftar is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as well as receiving political support from the United States, Russia, and France.

Before the Berlin conference, the search for a political solution for Libya was still at a standstill since the two rivals in Libya were unable to reach a ceasefire under the intermediate efforts of Russia and Turkey. The delegations of GNA and LNA negotiated in Moscow, but Haftar left the negotiating table without signing a ceasefire agreement to end the nine months of conflict. Since Haftar launched a military campaign to capture the capital city of Tripoli, where GNA's headquarters are located. From April 2019 until now, fierce fighting has caused thousands of deaths, forcing about 350,000 of people to leave their homes and about 800,000 others have to seek humanitarian aid. The UN is worried that if the conflict continues to escalate, there will be a serious humanitarian disaster in the country.

Meanwhile, the international split on Libya makes the Libyan situation increasingly complicated due to external support and intervention. Despite the opposition from other countries, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has announced that he will continue sending troops to Libya. Erdogan also asserted that Turkey will start drilling and exploiting oil and gas in oil fields in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, the area on which Ankara and GNA signed an agreement on jurisdiction at sea in November 2019, a move that was opposed by both Greece and Cyprus. Turkish President Erdogan warned that Europe could face new threats from terrorist organisations if GNA collapses. According to the Turkish leader, the failure of the European Union to obtain adequate support for the GNA would be a “betrayal of its own core values.”

Civil social organisations and activists in eastern Libya have called for a blockade of oil ports to protest Turkish military intervention in the North African nation. According to the Eastern Libyan authorities, oil revenue has been used to support armed forces against LNA, while oil and gas revenues are the only source of revenue helping to maintain the economy and guarantee the lives of Libyan people. Meanwhile, the head of Libya's National Oil Corporation has warned that stopping the production and export of oil would lead to a sharp devaluation of the local currency, an increase in the national deficit, and the decision of foreign contractors to withdraw as well as the future collapse of Libya's manufacturing sector.

Fighting continued in Libya just before the Berlin conference. The international community has called for the maintenance of a permanent ceasefire, while at the same time ensuring the territorial integrity of Libya and avoiding outside intervention. Within a mere one-day conference, it was difficult to solve this series of complex problems in Libya. However, diplomatic efforts need to be encouraged, because only a political solution can bring peace and stability to this North African nation.