The participants of the international Libya Summits have agreed to abide by the UN arms embargo and restart the political process in Libya. The summit participants also agreed on a ceasefire, but this is currently not legally binding, as Chancellor Angela Merkel also admitted. So far, the result has been primarily a diplomatic success. Whether the region really has an opportunity for peace will depend above all on the willingness of the international community to ensure that the key points are enforced militarily.
Heads of state and government from 12 countries met in the Federal Chancellery to discuss the containment of the Libya conflict. The war escalated weeks ago after the transfer of Syrian mercenaries. Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had also invited the supporters of the two Libyan war parties, the African and Arab Union, and presented a statement with 55 points, which had been prepared at five previous meetings.
The Russian president Wladimir Putin and the Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had unsuccessfully tried a week earlier to persuade army chief Chalifa Haftar and the prime minister of the unity government, Fajis al-Sarradsch, to sign a ceasefire. The weapons had remained silent since their meeting in Moscow, and now the political process in Berlin was to be revived.
Start of further negotiations
When the conference participants came together for a photo session in the afternoon, army chief Haftar and al-Sarradsch were not there. The 76-year-old General Haftar had previously met Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron behind closed doors, and al-Sarradsch consulted with a Turkish delegation. Even though al-Sarradsch had approved a ceasefire agreement in Moscow, it seemed in the short term that he would go beyond diplomatic efforts with a short interview: Haftar's army had to withdraw to the positions before the April 4 attack last year. Sarradsch to a journalist on the Libyan website Libyaobserver said. In the end, however, this did not prevent Merkel, together with UNSMIL chief Ghassan Salamé and Foreign Minister Maas, from presenting the results of the Libya summit to the numerous journalists who had traveled.
The fact that the Libyan delegations refused to meet is likely to have given the organizers a headache in the meantime. But at the end of the Berlin summit, a 55-point agreement was presented – which will be the starting signal for further negotiations for which the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is responsible.
The greatest success of the Berlin meeting is probably the convocation of a military committee, which consists of five members each Tripoli fighting troops should exist. Haftar and Fajis al-Sarradsch announced their candidates for the committee on Sunday, thereby indirectly agreeing to negotiations with the opposite side. The 5 + 5 committee is scheduled to start operating in Geneva in the next few days. There will also be an internal Libyan political dialogue – with representatives of the parliament, the so-called Council of State, to be determined and members of the government in Tripoli. "We got the key today that can end the Libyan conflict," the German Foreign Minister said cautiously optimistically. "But it won't be possible without following the political process," he conceded.
German diplomats had previously heard repeatedly that the mistakes of the previous international Libya conferences in Paris and Palermo were not to be repeated. Chalifa Haftar and Fajis al-Sarradsch had appeared there for photo-appropriate intent meetings, but there had been no binding concessions. At least visually, the Berlin meeting set completely new accents. Haftar and Fajis al-Sarradsch did not appear in public at all, so there were rumors in Libya that they had already left before the conference started.
UNSMIL CEO Salamé thanked the Chancellor for her commitment and emphasized that despite the war, his 230-strong mission had continued to commit to Libya and is now daring to restart. However, he failed to mention that the majority of the unarmed UN experts have been working in neighboring Tunisia since 2014 and are unlikely to return to Libya without a ceasefire.
The majority of the conference results, however, are no more than vague commitments to upholding the arms embargo, maintaining the unity of the country and using it for a political process. In the event that commitments are not kept, no sanctions are provided for and the document has not been signed. Although the paper speaks of the urgently needed merger of the two different central banks in Libya, as well as the necessary economic reforms in Libya, details are not given. Nevertheless, the Berlin Declaration is the most comprehensive document to date since the Skhirat peace agreement of December 2015. The Turkish-Russian attempt to establish a ceasefire was also expressly appreciated.
4,600 police officers secured the limousines of the heads of state who drove through the German capital over the weekend. For his part, UNSMIL boss Salamé preferred to use public transport to get to his hotel from Tegel Airport. In an interview with the newspaper Al Sharq al Awat Salamé had previously demanded that all foreign fighters leave Libya in accordance with the UNSMIL security plan.
During the beginning of the conference in the Chancellery, small groups of Libyans demonstrated on Republic Square. A group around the former ambassador for Libya, Ali Masednah al-Kothany, asked conference participants to support Haftar's Eastern Libyan Army (LNA). Another group called for the investigation of war crimes by the army commanded by Haftar.
Initial reactions in Libya to the conference reveal how divided the country of five million people is. A tribal alliance loyal to Haftar in the east, for example, wants to maintain the blockade of the oil ports until the militias in Tripoli are dissolved. Heavy fighting broke out in the Salaheddine district shortly before the conference in the Libyan capital. In contrast, residents of southern Tripoli complain on social media that the ceasefire is an illusion anyway. "Both sides bring weapons and supplies to the front," said a Tripoli resident about ZEIT ONLINE. "Both sides believe they can win this war without foreign partners."