UN calls to continue stalled Libyan dialogue in Morocco

The North African country is facing a "unique opportunity" to move towards peace, as stated by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres
Marruecos Libia

AFP/ HANNIBAL HANSCHKE  -   Overview of participants attending the Peace Summit on Libya at the Chancellery in Berlin on 19 January 2020

The Berlin Conference has resumed this week on line and one of the topics to be discussed is the peace talks in Libya which have been under way since August. The international community's concerns have increased as diplomatic talks have been paralysed by a problem of incompatible agendas. 

There are currently three negotiating tracks open in three different locations: in Geneva, where negotiations began in February to map out the first steps to be taken. In Morocco, Bouznika, political and structural peace pacts are being discussed. And in Egypt, Hurgada, where the steps to be taken towards a ceasefire and the agreement on military and security restructuring are being discussed.  

During yesterday's conference, Mr Guterres recalled the recent meetings held between the parties to the conflict, including the one on October 1st in Morocco, and the meeting held on September 28th and 29th in the Egyptian city of Hurgada, where the rival Libyan governments discussed issues related to security and military deployment.

Bouznika welcomed the fact that the delegations of the Libyan High State Council and the Parliament in Tobruk reached “a comprehensive agreement on transparent and objective criteria and mechanisms for occupying sovereign positions”. These include key positions such as those of the Central Bank, the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, the chairman of the High Electoral Commission, the attorney general and the president of the Judicial Council.

The UN special mission in Libya (UNSMIL) noted that Hurgada's talks between military representatives from both sides reached important recommendations on the release of detainees, as well as the reopening of airspace and land routes for the release of prisoners. The final rumours indicate that there could be a final merger between the opposing armies to achieve a unity that would set an example to Libyan citizens. 

"Recent developments represent a rare opportunity to make real progress in the search for peace and stability in Libya", said Guterres.  

Marruecos Libia
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Nasser Bourita, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, chairs a meeting of representatives of Libya's rival administrations in the coastal city of Bouznika, south of Rabat, on 6 September 2020
Resumption of inter-Libyan dialogue in Bouznika

The Bouznika talks were to be resumed at the beginning of October, but Abdelkader al-Hawaili, a prominent member of the Council of State, announced at the end of September that the Libyan dialogue table had been postponed due to a conflict in the agendas of the parties to the conflict.

The aim of these new rounds of negotiations is focused on "the mechanisms for appointing" the seven most important posts in the state. This dialogue between the Libyan factions, represented by the Parliament and the Council of State respectively, is stipulated in the Libyan political agreement signed five years ago in the Moroccan city of Skhirat, neighbouring Rabat.

It is unknown who will head the negotiating teams in Bouznika, though it is possible that the president of the parliament of Tobruk in the east, Aguila Saleh, and the president of the Supreme State Council, Khaled al-Mashri, will do so, which would have a high symbolic value. 

The warring parties in Libya have much to talk about and share. Above all because of the crossed interests of the various international allies they have had during the war.  

On the one hand, there is the Tobruk parliament with Aguila Saleh as president. This Parliament is located in the city of Tobruk and is loyal to the Benghazi government, backed by the forces of the Libyan National Army, led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar. This part of the administration is supported internationally by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Russia and France. 

On the other side, the Libyan High Council of State represents the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. The president of this body is Khaled al-Mechri and the prime minister is Fayez Sarraj. The latter announced his resignation at the height of the peace talks sponsored by Morocco, a resignation regretted by many owing to the "good leadership" it represents for the side supported by the United Nations, Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

Political resignations and the arms embargo 

The Portuguese diplomat also highlighted the resignations announced in Libya by the leaders of the opposing governments, opening the way to dialogue. On the one hand, that of the head of the government of eastern Libya and not recognised by the international community, Abdallah al-Thani, who resigned in September 13 and, on the other, that of the leader of the government of National Accord supported by the UN in Tripoli, Fayez Sarraj, who announced on September 16 that he will hand over power to a successor before the end of October. 

Furthermore, on August 21, the two executives, in conflict since 2015, announced a ceasefire after 15 months of intense fighting and undertook the commitment to work with the international community to find a negotiated solution, including the holding of elections. 

In his speech, Guterres also asked for the commitment of the international community to the arms embargo decreed by the Security Council in order to try to put a stop to this conflict which has also become a scenario of struggle between different countries and powers. "The violations of the embargo are a scandal and call into question the basic commitment to peace of all involved,” he told the closed meeting. “Foreign deliveries of weapons and other military support must stop immediately.”

To accompany this new opportunity for peace, Guterres asked for joint efforts to restore Libya's ability to provide basic services and security to its population, whose living conditions have continuously deteriorated, not only as a result of the conflict but also due to poor governance and rampant corruption.

He asked for the immediate, permanent and unconditional lifting of the blockade on the country's oil production and exports, which has had a crippling impact on the economy.

Guerra en Libia
AFP/MAHMUD TURKIA - Damaged buildings in the Salaheddin district, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on 21 June 2020, as some residents return to the area after demining
Discomfort with international presence

Sources close to the Government of National Accord, supported by the UN based in Tripoli, complained of an attempt to interfere in the peace process by countries in the region and other states directly involved in the civil war. 

This may have been one of the reasons for the paralysis of the negotiations. Bouznika was expected to be visited by the leader of the aforementioned Supreme State Council, a sort of Senate that emerged from the peace negotiations held five years ago in the Moroccan city of Skhirat, Khaled al-Mishri, and the head of the parliament elected in the city of Tobruk, Aguila Saleh. 

North Africa is under the focus of the international community this week. This is reinforced by the visit to Morocco and Tunisia of the head of the Pentagon to discuss the instability in the Sahel and the fight against the Jihadist groups spreading across northern Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Chad, southern Tunisia and Algeria, as well as the conflictive region of Lake Chad and the war in Libya. 

The United Nations is calling on the parties to the conflict in Libya to resume negotiations and not to leave halfway through the different paths drawn up in order to find a common consensus to put an end to this conflict which has been going on for nine years.  

For the Secretary-General, the "future of Libya is at stake" and he urged the Libyans to continue working towards a lasting ceasefire and to contribute constructively to the political dialogue facilitated by the United Nations.