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Saturday, 23 January 2021

Will the ‘Cairo Declaration’ foster a political solution in Libya?

Haitham Nouri , Sunday 7 Jun 2020
A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on June 6, 2020 shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C), Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar (R) and the Libyan Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh (L) arriving for a joint press conference in the capital Cairo AFP
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The initiative relies on the results of the Berlin summit in January, which called on the international and regional parties involved in the conflict to adhere to an embargo on the export of arms to any party involved in the Libyan conflict, and to work on finding a peaceful political settlement.
It focuses on the necessity of resuming the work of the UN-sponsored Libyan Joint Military Commission, known as “5+5” because it includes five representatives of each conflicting side.
No single government has had full control over the oil-rich country since 2011 when then-leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed.
The country has since been ruled by two governments, one in the east represented by the “House of Representatives,” which is the only elected body. The west, where the capital Tripoli is located, is ruled by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarra,
The GNA was formed as a result of the UN-sponsored “Skhirat Agreement” that was signed in Morocco in 2015.
“The current status is complicated, as each party has its own legitimacies; the elected parliament and the recognised government,” said London-based professor of political science Abd El Monem Rady.
“The Libyan conflict won’t be settled by a military party, no matter how supported they are. It has been complicated through the years, beside other reasons resulting from the ouster and killing of Gaddafi,” Rady added.
Rady talked about the battle in western Libya between the forces aligned with the House of Representatives, led by Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar, and the forces loyal to the GNA on the other hand.
Last year, LNA forces started a military campaign to “free Tripoli from terrorists and militiamen.”
The forces have been blockading Tripoli for more than a year, but they withdrew on Friday after a chain of withdrawals from other towns and military bases in the west taken over by the GNA forces.
Currently, the two sides are fighting over Sirte -- Gaddafi’s birthplace -- which lies halfway between the biggest two cities, Benghazi in the east and Tripoli in the west. It is the same in Misrata, which lies in northwestern Libya near Tripoli, and which is where one of the biggest anti-LNA forces militias is stationed.
The Egyptian initiative calls for a ceasefire agreement, plus the formation of a presidential council that represents all the regions and parts of Libyan society. It also obliges the foreign parties to remove mercenaries from Libyan territory, dismantle the militias and hand over their weapons.
According to Rady, Libya now faces a renewed conflict between the eastern and western sides of the country, and this conflict has been ongoing for nearly a century. “What’s currently being added to the conflict is the presence of militias with religious ideologies and outside affiliations such as the Brotherhood and terrorist organisations,” he said.
Turkey supports the GNA in public, and has provided them with nearly ten thousand Syrian fighters. It has also supported the weaponisation that has empowered the GNA and helped them to regain control over a couple of places last week from the LNA.
Rady believes that if Libya does not start along a path to a political solution, it will turn into a major regional conflict arena, with Egypt and its alliances on one side and the Turkey-Qatar alliance on the other, as well as other European and Russian interventions.
But the conflict’s two parties don’t have the same vision of a political solution, as Aguila Saleh, the President of the House of Representatives -- the only elected organisation in the country -- has called for breaking with the past to overcome the crisis, drafting a constitution, and conducting elections.
On the contrary, after announcing the withdrawal of the LNA forces from Tripoli, al-Sarraj, the GNA head, announced on Facebook that: “Our battle continues, and we’re looking forward to taking control over the whole of Libyan territory.”
The GNA has not yet responded clearly to the “Cairo Declaration” initiative.
On the other hand, a lot of Arab countries have welcomed the initiative, among them Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. European countries such as France and Germany have also showed their support, as have the United States and Russia.
Haftar said that the target of his forces is to kick out the Turkish colonists, because Ankara’s interference in the Libyan affair only results in increasing polarisation.
He has asked Egypt to work on obliging Turkey to eliminate the supply of weapons to the militia, and to remove the mercenaries from Libya.
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