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.
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.
Head of Tripoli-based UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) PM Serraj announced unilateral ceasefire amid intensifying diplomatic efforts to revive political negotiations, while rival authorities faced series of protests. Germany and U.S. intensified their efforts to find way out of stalemate in oil-rich central Libya, which GNA-allied forces backed by Turkey have been seeking to take back from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) in recent months. U.S. President Trump 13 Aug discussed with Turkish President Erdoğan creation of demilitarised zone around Sirte city and nearby Jufra airbase and reopening of Haftar-controlled oil sites. During visit to Libya, German FM Heiko Maas 17 Aug met with Serraj and reiterated calls for demilitarisation of central Libya. Haftar’s spokesperson 19 Aug said ALAF won’t retreat from Sirte and leave city to “invaders”. Serraj 21 Aug announced unilateral ceasefire, called for resumption of oil production and export through Libya’s National Oil Corporation and for presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2021. Haftar’s ally, Tobruk-based House of Representatives Speaker Aghela Saleh, same day expressed support for truce and elections, and proposed Sirte as new capital for Libya. Haftar’s spokesperson 23 Aug dismissed ceasefire, said GNA is planning Turkish-backed offensive on Sirte. Oil and gas export blockade imposed by ALAF remained in force, but Haftar-aligned Petroleum Facilities Guard 19 Aug announced partial lifting of blockade in Marsa al-Brega oil export terminal solely for export of locally stored oil barrels, citing shortage of gas in local power stations. Protests 23 Aug erupted in capital Tripoli and other western cities over deteriorating living conditions and bad governance, and continued in following days; armed men fired live ammunition to disperse protesters in Tripoli wounding several, and abducted at least six. Serraj 29 Aug dismissed Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha allegedly over his handling of protests and subsequently announced plan to reshuffle cabinet. In Sirte, protests late-Aug erupted against Haftar forces and in support of former Qadhafi regime; ALAF forces cracked down on protestors reportedly killing one and arresting over 50.
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.
Four main Libyan leaders meet in Paris on 29 May to sign a roadmap to peace, including 2018 elections with united international backing. But with Libya’s UN-backed peace process at risk from the meeting's format and the accord that France has brokered, the sides should instead commit to a broader declaration of principles.
[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.
Haftar is deeply unpopular in many places and given the fragmented state of Libya and the proliferation of armed groups it’s going to be very hard to impose his rule throughout the country.
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 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.
On 19 January, Berlin will convene the main parties in Libya’s conflict. This comes in the wake of the Moscow meeting between Libya’s two main rival leaders that failed to produce a ceasefire. Libya expert Claudia Gazzini discusses where the peace process may go next.