Libya devastated by imperialist intervention is still conflict-torn, and in unstable condition. Recently concluded Berlin conference has begun a process. Still uncertainty is there as the conference is yet to produce fruitful progress in Libya-situation.

Much remained to be done, says Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov has said that his country considers the Berlin Conference a “small step” towards a settlement in Libya, although “a lack of confidence still prevails between the two parties to the conflict,” according to Lavrov.

“It is still impossible to organize a dialogue between the two parties to the Libyan conflict,” Lavrov told a news conference following the Berlin meeting.

He said that the meeting was useful, but efforts to launch a serious dialogue between the two parties have yet to succeed; owing to the deep divergences of views between the two sides.

Imperialist powers now recognize that neither conflicting parties is able to triumph over the other militarily. Yet significant disagreement remains about how to resolve the conflict diplomatically. Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to bring Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar together last week to sign a ceasefire, but Haftar hurried out without putting his name on the agreement.

Last Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel followed Putin’s initiative. Sarraj and Haftar were invited to the conference, as were the major foreign powers, who have repeatedly breached the UN arms embargo. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and France, Haftar’s main backers, were represented, as were Sarraj’s allies Turkey, Italy, and the European Union.

The purpose of the conference in Merkel’s words was “getting all the parties … connected in any way with the Libya conflict to speak with one voice” in the hope that the combatants would understand that diplomacy needed to begin in earnest.

After four hours of discussions in Berlin, those in attendance agreed on a six-page communiqué, which aimed to freeze the frontlines in preparation for a comprehensive, Libyan political dialogue. According to the communiqué, the parties “unequivocally and fully respect” the UN Security Council Resolutions as it pertains to Libya, particularly the arms embargo set in place to take military solutions off the table. Monitoring provisions, including through air, land, and sea-based platforms, were to be strengthened to ensure violations of the embargo are spotted. And a committee is to be established that would begin addressing the core disputes in the war.

In a small sign of positive news, Sarraj and Haftar have already appointed their representatives.

However, a ray of hope has emerged for Libya following the Berlin Conference on Libya, hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on January 19.

The conference gave the go-ahead for the comprehensive ‘Berlin Process’ to put an end to the conflict and bring lasting peace to the oil-rich North African country trapped in clashing interests.

A statement comprising the 55-point Conference Conclusions agreed to by the leaders of 12 countries, as well as the UN, the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League, calls on “all actors to refrain from any activities exacerbating the conflict or inconsistent with the UNSC (UN Security Council) arms embargo or the ceasefire, including the financing of military capabilities or the recruitment of mercenaries”.

All participants agreed to “commit to unequivocally and fully respect and implement the arms embargo established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011) and the Council’s subsequent Resolutions, including the proliferation of arms from Libya, and called on all international actors to do the same.”

“We had very serious negotiations here,” German Chancellor Merkel said after the conference. The conference agreed that military intervention is “by no means a solution”.

According to the Conference Conclusions, the Berlin Process, which seeks to support the three-point-plan presented by Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Ghassan Salamé, to the Security Council, has “the sole objective” of assisting the United Nations in unifying the International Community in their support for a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis. “There can be no military solution in Libya.”

An International Follow-Up Committee (IFC) consisting of all countries and international organizations that participated in the Berlin Conference on Libya will be established in order to maintain coordination in the aftermath of the conference, under the aegis of the UN.

The UN chief told journalists after the conference that a meeting to discuss the economic reform necessary for the normal governance of Libya would take place in the next two to three weeks.

Conference participants included high-level representatives of Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the Republic of the Congo, United Arab Emirates, Britain, and the US, together with representatives of the UN, the African Union, the European Union, and the League of Arab States.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were among the participants.

Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, attended the conference as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special representative.

Though Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognized Libya’s government backed by the Parliament and General Khalifa Haftar leading the Libyan National Army were both in Berlin they refused to meet with each other in the same room.

While Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are backing General Haftar, Turkey is defending the internationally recognized government in Tripoli. Within the European Union, different member countries have tacitly backed different sides, with varying intensity. France has been on General Haftar’s side, while Italy has traditionally been closer to the official government in Tripoli.

Merkel said the international participants spoke only individually to the two Libyan leaders, who were kept informed of developments throughout the day.

The New York Times quoted officials saying that General Haftar “abruptly left the chancellery in Berlin and could not be coaxed back from his hotel. He is traveling to Moscow again on Monday January 20), officials said, where he will hold further talks with Mr. Putin”.

Troops of Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Al-Sarraj have been under attack since April from the troops of General Haftar who controls eastern Libya. Clashes have killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displaced tens of thousands.

“I hope the commitments made today will contribute to a lasting solution to the Libya crisis. We need to have a ceasefire. We cannot monitor something that doesn’t exist,” UN chief Guterres told journalists after the conference.

The Berlin Conference on Libya was preceded by inter-Libyan talks held in Moscow on January 13 under the mediation of Russia and Turkey. The parties involved in the Libyan conflict gathered to discuss a ceasefire meant to end the hostilities in Libya and start a political dialogue.

After more than eight hours of talks, the head of Libya’s Government of National Accord Al-Sarraj signed the deal, but General Haftar left for Libya early January 14 without signing the agreement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “We never pretended that the talks in Moscow should be a final meeting that would resolve all issues (of the Libyan conflict) without exception. We promoted this meeting as a step and a contribution to the preparation for the upcoming international conference on Libya in Berlin.”

Lavrov said: “This has happened before when the meetings on the settlement in Libya were held in Paris, Palermo, and Abu Dhabi. When such a meeting was held in France, even the date of the elections was named, but it took place two years ago. It is a pity that the agreements in Abu Dhabi were not implemented, because they dealt with key political issues – the separation of powers and a territorial arrangement that would suit everyone,” Lavrov added speaking at a Forum in New Delhi.

“This is a process, and it is ongoing, and we will continue to make efforts to ensure its success,” he said.

In a joint statement by European Commission president von der Leyen and High Representative/Vice-President Borrell Fontelles said: “As European Union, we reaffirm that the only sustainable solution to the crisis in Libya is through UN-led mediation efforts that put the need of all Libyan people at the forefront. Only a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process can end the conflict and bring lasting peace. We support the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya, in the interest of regional stability and prosperity. This is also important for Europe.”

The UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said there are three tracks that his mission has started working on in the country after Berlin conference; political, economic and military ones.

“The priority is for these three tracks, especially the military and security one. I hope I push it forward in the coming days in Geneva.” Salame said.

The UN envoy said the core of the 5+5 commission’s tasks is to work on sending away foreign fighters from Libya as soon as possible

“All issues are on the table, including the constitution draft which was passed by the Constitution Drafting Assembly, elections laws, dates for the elections and maybe reforming a unity agreement in Libya to supervise the holding of the elections.” Salame explained.

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Turkey rejects EU coordination in Libyan Peace Process, says Erdogan

Turkey does not want the European Union to coordinate the Libyan peace process, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday, adding that there is the UN to play that role.

“It would be wrong for the EU to enter this process as a coordinator when there is the UN. We opposed this during bilateral talks,” Erdogan was quoted as saying to reporters by A Haber news channel after returning to Ankara from Berlin.

It is time to act, Libyans had had enough, says Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has said that Libyans had suffered enough and it is time to get on and move forward.

“Libya is living a proxy conflict run by external forces,” Johnson said. He added that proxy conflicts would only end when external parties driving them decide to do so.

Rome is ready to send peacekeeping forces to Libya, say Italian ministers

The Minister of European Affairs in Italy Vincenzo Amendola has told Corriere della Sera that his country is ready to deploy peacekeeping forces in Libya.

Amendola remarked on Monday that Italy has over 6000 soldiers in peacekeeping missions, adding that they should be prioritized for peacekeeping in Libya rather than other westerners.

“Italy and France should work together with the EU to make countries commit to the decisions that have been taken in Berlin conference and to halt the unjustified foreign military pressure.” He said.

In the meantime, the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said his country was ready to play a leading role in monitoring the peace process in Libya.

Di Maio indicated on his Facebook page after arriving in Brussels to attend a meeting for the EU foreign ministers that Rome would be working on achieving the joint interest, which is ending military operations in Libya.

On Sunday, the Head of the Presidential Council Fayez Al-Sarraj told the German newspaper Die Welt that he welcomes sending international peacekeeping forces under the auspices of the UN to secure civilians if Khalifa Haftar’s forces continue their offensive on Tripoli.

Libyan oil fields remain shut, testing peace summit

Libya’s major oil fields and production facilities remained closed on Monday, its national oil company said, in a sign that the country’s east-based forces are not backing down after an international summit to end the Libyan civil war.

The Libyan National Oil Corporation confirmed it had invoked force majeure on oil exports from two key southern fields, a clause that allows for a failure to fulfill international contracts due to a sudden disruptive event.

The continued closure of virtually all of Libya’s oil facilities by eastern Libyan forces ratchets up pressure on their adversaries in the west, the UN-backed government that controls the capital, Tripoli.

Scattered clashes erupted outside Tripoli, testing a tenuous week-old cease-fire.

Former general Khalifa Hafter’s east-based forces have been laying siege to the capital for months.

“People are holding their breath,” said Mohamed Eljarh, a political analyst who is based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

“I am worried there is no appetite among the warring parties and their constituencies for a truce right now,” Eljarh added.

Aid workers in the capital’s southern suburbs said they had not been able to recover corpses for several days because of continued fighting.

“We found six corpses stuck under rubble but there was intense shooting and we couldn’t reach them until today,” said Assad Jaafar, a spokesperson for Libya’s Red Crescent.

Dozens of men from tribal groups loyal to Hafter continued on Monday to camp out in the two southern oil fields, al-Sharara, Libya’s largest, and al-Feel.

Hafter’s tribal allies closed a major pipeline over the weekend, stopping about 380,000 barrels per day of production and potentially cutting national output to a small fraction of its normal level.

“This sit-in will continue,” vowed Mohamed Maikal, the leader of the group that seized the fields, known as Fezzan. “There is a pessimistic situation after what happened in Berlin.”

The protesters accuse the Tripoli-based government, which controls Libya’s Central Bank, of using oil revenues to fund military operations against Hafter’s forces.

The shutdown of production in the south follows the weekend closure of all eastern export terminals. Only offshore fields and one smaller facility remain operational, the national oil company said.

It remains unclear whether the commitment to halt foreign interference announced in Berlin will prove any more effective in winding down the years-long war in Libya than past pledges that have been widely ignored.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert at The Netherlands Institute of International Relations, said that the Berlin summit had delivered “absolutely none” of the “concrete mechanisms” needed to ensure all parties to the conflict observe commitments to a truce and de-escalation.


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