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.
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.
Warring parties signed countrywide ceasefire agreement and resumed political talks under UN auspices, while oil production continued to increase. Representatives of UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar-led Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) 23 Oct signed countrywide “permanent ceasefire” agreement, following UN-led talks in Geneva. Both sides agreed to stop hostilities across country, withdraw respective forces from front lines, expel foreign mercenaries and freeze foreign military training programs in Libya until new govt is formed. UN late Oct relaunched Libyan Political Dialogue; talks between 75 delegates representing rival camps, Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS) and Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HOR), and other delegates handpicked by UN took place virtually 26 Oct; in-person meetings scheduled to start 9 Nov in Tunisia; discussions focus on formation of unified cabinet with view to reaching comprehensive political settlement. GNA 30 Oct announced PM Serraj, who last month said he would hand over duties by end of Oct, will stay in office until new govt is formed “to avoid a political vacuum”. Earlier in month, foreign actors hosted meetings between rival camps. Morocco 2-6 Oct convened delegations from rival assemblies to discuss appointment of heads of national institutions including Central Bank of Libya; delegations agreed to appoint either institutions’ chairman or deputy on basis of regional quotas. Egypt 11-13 Oct hosted HCS-HOR talks on constitutional roadmap. Meanwhile, tensions around central city of Sirte early to mid-Oct remained high as both sides reportedly continued to amass equipment and forces in spite of Aug local ceasefire; GNA early month accused Haftar’s camp of violating ceasefire by allegedly launching rockets against GNA positions, which Haftar denied. In attempt to pressure Russian military to withdraw from Libya, EU 15 Oct imposed travel ban and economic sanctions on Kremlin insider Yevgeny Prigozhin. Following Sept deal to lift months-long oil sector blockade, National Oil Corporation progressively lifted force majeure on export terminals and major oil fields, and oil production late-Oct reached 500,000 barrels per day. IMF data in Oct showed Libya’s GDP is expected to shrink by 66% this year and prices to increase by 22%.
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.
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.
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.
The war in Libya is at risk of escalating into a full-fledged proxy war. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to prompt UN action and press for the warring parties to keep their Berlin conference promises.
The Berlin conference represented an important step toward ending Libya’s civil war, with outside parties committing to that goal. The imperative now is to translate these pledges into concrete steps toward a cessation of hostilities and a renewal of UN-backed negotiations.