In early 2021, Libyan politicians agreed on terms for a national unity government bringing together what had been two administrations in Tripoli and Tobruk. The accord was another step toward lasting stability following the October 2020 ceasefire between the two rival militaries. Unifying national institutions is taking time, however, and several possible pitfalls lie ahead. Through research and advocacy, Crisis Group aims to keep the national unity agreement intact and the various associated processes on track, encouraging dialogue among Libyans and vigorous engagement on the part of the UN and external powers with influence in the country.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood asks Crisis Group experts how the Ukraine war has affected peacemaking elsewhere, notably Nagorno-Karabakh, where Moscow plays a major diplomatic role, and Libya, where the Kremlin backs one of the conflict’s main protagonists.
Crisis of two rival govts remained intractable as Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha came out weakened of failed efforts to enter capital Tripoli.
PM Dabaiba continued to consolidate control in Tripoli. Militias aligned with Tripoli-based PM Abdelhamid Dabaiba early Sept reportedly took over security headquarters in Ain Zara town south of Tripoli after repelling forces loyal to rival Sirte-based PM Fathi Bashagha in late Aug. Situation inside Tripoli remained calm in Sept, but renewed clashes between rival armed factions 2-3 Sept broke out in Warshafana area west of Tripoli with reports of mortar fire. Fighting 25-26 Sept also erupted in Zawiya town, 40km west of Tripoli, allegedly over fuel trafficking; at least five people killed including ten-year-old girl; UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) next day “condemned the use of heavy artillery in densely populated neighbourhoods”.
Parties sought to strengthen relations with Ankara. Dabaiba and Bashagha, 31 Aug-1 Sept made parallel visits to Türkiye to seek Ankara’s support. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 14 Sept said Türkiye seeks to “build good relations” with various Libyan parties amid media reports that Turkish drones turned late-Aug clashes in Dabaiba’s favour.
New UN envoy appointed. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 2 Sept appointed Senegalese diplomat and former govt minister Abdoulaye Bathily as special representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL after obtaining Security Council’s approval, ending nine-month search. Dabaiba, who in Aug had reportedly objected to Bathily’s nomination, 3 Sept assured envoy of his “full support”. Bathily, who 25 Sept officially assumed duties, will have to mediate between Libyan factions now divided between those adamant that Dabaiba stay on until elections, those proposing new power-sharing deal and govt reshuffle under Dabaiba, and those calling for entirely new “third” govt. Foreign capitals also split on path ahead.
In other important developments. After power struggle erupted in Aug between Supreme Court and Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), HoR Speaker Aguila Saleh 15 Sept announced appointment of Abdullah Abu Razizah as new chief justice of Supreme Court to replace Mohammed Al-Hafi; Abu Razizah few days later took office.
None of the foreign actors backing the two Libyan sides want to compromise the rekindled dialogue for the sake of launching a war in Libya against the other side.
There’s a palpable fear ... that candidates [for the presidential election in Libya] that are very polarizing will contest the results either if they run or don’t run, if...
This is the first time that Libya has held presidential elections, and the powers attributed to the president in the current elections law are huge.
The Libyan parliament and the executive were not able to drive the [peace] process forward alone. This was why tensions between rival groups had increased again in recent...
There is not doubt that if [Egypt and Turkey] find a way to work together [...], this will reflect in pushing forward political stability in Libya.
If you start with the NATO-led intervention, the big lesson learned was that this planted the seeds for the disarray that followed [in Libya].
Libya is once again stuck in a standoff between two rival executives. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to host consultations among foreign ministers of countries engaged in Libya, push the UN Security Council to appoint a new special representative and encourage the opposing factions to reach agreement on a state budget.
Discord about how to resolve a political impasse has once more put Libya in danger of fracturing in two. The priorities are for the camps to agree on a way forward and for outside powers to stay united in backing whatever peaceful option Libyans choose.
Libya again has two rival administrations pressing claims to be the rightful government. Both sides have armed loyalists. Outside powers should join hands to help stop them from clashing once more.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group’s Turkey expert, Nigar Göksel, about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent trip to Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Turkey’s involvement in conflicts in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus, and its wider foreign relations.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group’s fieldwork and recent report “Libya Turns the Page”
Libyan politicians have moved with salutary speed in 2021 to reunify their divided country. With UN help, the new government should hasten to clear two last hurdles: establishing a legal framework for elections and clarity about who holds supreme command of the armed forces.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Libya expert Claudia Gazzini about the successful formation of a new interim government in Libya and the challenges in unifying the country.
This Briefing Note assesses the outcome of a UN-backed forum that took place in Geneva from 1-5 February and where Libyan delegates elected a new interim executive. It is the fourth in a series of regular updates on efforts to end Libya’s civil war.