This Briefing Note provides up-to-the-minute analysis of attempts to end Libya’s almost decade-long civil war through talks focused on reunifying the country’s government, oil-based economy and security forces. It is the third in a series of regular updates.
Implementation of Oct ceasefire agreement continued to falter, while political dialogue aimed at unifying country’s divided institutions stalled. Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA) 7 Dec accused Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) of mobilising in south in attempt to take over military base in desert town of Obari; ALAF same day denied claim and instead accused Tripoli of having dispatched “militias, weapons and military equipment toward front lines west of Sirte and Jufra” towns in centre; GNA in following weeks continued to alert foreign partners to suspected ALAF military build-up in south. Meanwhile, ALAF naval forces 7 Dec intercepted Turkish cargo vessel near port city of Derna in east, prompting Turkey’s FM to warn that “targeting Turkish interests in Libya will have grave consequences”; ALAF 9 Dec accused Turkey of “undermining Libyan sovereignty and its resources” by “dispatching military equipment” and “transporting mercenaries and foreign fighters to fight” alongside GNA forces. Turkish parliament 22 Dec extended Ankara’s direct military support to GNA, including deployment of Turkish troops, for another 18 months. In letter to UN Security Council, UN Sec-Gen Guterres 29 Dec proposed to set up international monitoring group to support ceasefire. Meanwhile, political talks stalled. UN Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams 15 Dec said Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) failed to agree on mechanism to choose transitional govt to lead country to elections in Dec 2021 despite six online meetings since face-to-face talks in Tunisia in Nov. UN however moved forward with election preparations and 21 Dec established Legal Committee, consisting of 18 LPDF members, tasked with drafting proposals on legal framework for elections. UN Security Council 15 Dec approved Guterres’s proposal to appoint Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov as UN special envoy for Libya; UN 22 Dec however said Mladenov had declined position due to “personal and family reasons”. Meeting of Central Bank of Libya’s board of directors held 16 Dec for first time in five years; participants agreed to devaluate Libyan dinar and fixed official exchange rate of 4.48lyd/$, with aim to unify Libya’s exchange rate system.
Though overdue, the 23 October Libya ceasefire deal is worthy of applause. With help from the UN and their foreign backers, the warring parties should now close the loopholes in the agreement’s text, lest rival interpretations derail movement toward peace.
Turkish intervention in Libya’s war stopped the besieged Tripoli government from collapsing. But fighting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces has since escalated, threatening a protracted conflict. Both Ankara and Haftar’s regional backers should urge their allies toward a return to negotiations and a ceasefire.
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s march on Tripoli has ground to a halt in a war of attrition with the internationally recognised government’s forces on the city’s outskirts. The parties should conclude a ceasefire including Haftar’s partial withdrawal as a prelude to renewed UN peace talks.
An under-reported banking crisis threatens to exacerbate deadly fighting in Tripoli, ignite a protracted resource war and deepen the country’s east-west divide. A way out requires agreeing to a ceasefire in Tripoli and ending the four-year split between the Central Bank’s rival branches.
Adherents of a Salafi school, the Madkhalis, are gaining prominence on both sides of Libya’s divide, causing concerns about puritanical agendas imposed through military and religious institutions. Negotiators should ensure that rebuilt security forces are politically neutral and secure the Madkhalis’ pledge to respect pluralism.
A renewed struggle this summer over Libya’s main oil export zone cut sales in half, squeezing hard currency supplies amid outcry about mismanagement of hydrocarbon revenues. To build trust, Libyan and international actors should review public spending and move toward unifying divided financial institutions.
The arms embargo in Libya died many years ago. What changed this year was that the violations of the embargo came out into the open more.
[L’envoyé spécial des Nations unies en Libye, Ghassan Salamé,] était un envoyé infatigable qui voulait probablement plus la paix que les Libyens eux-mêmes.
Tout le monde veut la fin de la guerre en Libye, sauf que chacun a une idée différente de ce qui devrait être la nouvelle configuration politique. Donc la guerre continue.
[The new European Union foreign policy chief has brought] a renewed energy and willingness to look at Libya as a crisis and a war in and of itself.
The French need to clarify in greater detail. The open question is whether or not they are actively supporting Haftar’s forces in their offensive on Tripoli.
With the GNA and the LNA refusing to halt hostilities and amid diplomatic paralysis, the war in and around Tripoli is likely to drag on.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Crisis Group’s Libya expert Claudia Gazzini explains the militia and foreign proxy rivalries that are tearing the country apart to our President Rob Malley and co-host Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict.
On 20 July, Egyptian legislators authorised sending combat troops to Libya, where Cairo’s ally Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is on the defensive. Following Turkey’s intervention on the Tripoli government’s behalf, Egypt’s involvement could escalate the war dramatically. All parties should seek a compromise.
Crisis Group's Libya Senior Analyst Claudia Gazzini and Turkey Project Director Nigar Göksel held a panel moderated by our Communications & Outreach Director Hugh Pope to discuss Crisis Group's 29 April report on outside intervention in Libya.
Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces besieging Tripoli, has announced he will replace UN-backed mediation in Libya with a new political roadmap and government. His proposal divided supporters; adversaries called it a coup. To stop a power struggle, Haftar’s regional backers should press him to reconsider.
In this interview, Crisis Group's Libya Expert Claudia Gazzini try to provide some insight into Turkey's relation with Libya and the Mediterranean neighbourhood.