Implementation of the UN-mediated 2015 political deal that established the Presidency Council and Tripoli-based interim government has been hindered by claims of illegitimacy by rival political forces. Although the framework of the deal is the only viable path to resolving the Libyan conflict, Crisis Group encourages all parties to negotiate a new government with nationwide legitimacy. Important steps were taken in July 2017, when rivals President al-Serraj and General Haftar agreed to a ceasefire agreement and to hold elections in 2018. Yet Libya remains deeply divided and failure to implement the agreement could adversely affect regional security as well as increase migrant flows into the European Union. Crisis Group aims to inform the international community, as well as national and regional actors, about the importance of prioritising economic development and basic political consensus as the main stepping stones for sustainable peace.
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.
Participants to UN-led political talks agreed on mechanism for choosing transitional govt, while implementation of Oct 2020 ceasefire continued to falter. In apparent breakthrough, UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) 19 Jan agreed on hybrid mechanism to choose transitional three-member Presidency Council and PM to lead country to elections scheduled for Dec 2021; LPDF members to elect PM with 70% of votes, and simultaneously to be divided into three regions to elect with 70% of votes their representative on Presidency Council; votes scheduled for Feb; back-up list-based system to kick in if abovementioned voting procedure fails. Meanwhile, Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA) and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) continued to accuse each other of pursuing military build-up in violation of ceasefire signed in Oct, and missed 23 Jan deadline to ensure departure from Libya of all foreign fighters. ALAF 13 Jan accused Turkey of continuing to send military equipment to GNA, and media including U.S.-based TV channel CNN 22 Jan alleged ALAF-allied Russian military contractors had recently dug 70km trench fortification from Sirte city to Jufra airbase to prevent possible GNA military offensive in central and eastern Libya. New U.S. administration 28 Jan called on all external parties, including Turkey and Russia, to immediately cease military operations in Libya and withdraw their forces; United Arab Emirates next day said it was ready to cooperate with UN and U.S. to find “diplomatic and political solutions” to conflict. Central Bank of Libya early Jan introduced new unified exchange rate, devaluing Libyan dinar by 300% in attempt to alleviate faltering economy; move prompted major spike in price of basic food commodities, with bread and oil prices rising by 30% by mid-Jan. Rival finance ministers 12 Jan met to discuss unification of 2021 national budgets. UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres 18 Jan appointed former Slovakian FM Ján Kubiš as new UN envoy to Libya; Kubiš due to take office in early Feb. UN Security Council mid-Jan also extended sine die mandate of UN Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams to allow her to continue political dialogue efforts.
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.
Reviving the Iran nuclear deal could help alleviate the threat of nuclear proliferation and cool regional tensions. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to support the Biden administration in re-engaging with Tehran and to facilitate trade between Europe and Iran.
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 second in a series of twice-monthly updates.
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 first in a series of twice-monthly updates.
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.