After Berlin

xx Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 21 Jan 2020

The resolutions adopted in Berlin on the Libyan conflict were greeted both inside Libya and abroad with a great deal of caution because the problems on the ground in Libya are so complex that no document produced by an international conference can solve them. The Berlin conference, which concluded its activities Sunday, called for a ceasefire in war-torn Libya, a halt to outside military interventions, and commitment to the UN resolution banning arms flows into Libya. The ceasefire will be monitored by a military committee that will “convene in Libya in the coming days”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said. The first hurdle to be overcome is the creation of this committee by the parties to the Libyan conflict.

According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most important result of the conference was that the leaders of the two main rival factions, Fayez Al-Sarraj, the head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), agreed to undertake a series of further steps, one of which was to form a military committee to monitor the ceasefire consisting of five representatives from each side. On the other hand, there remains a clear division over the cessation of hostilities since the LNA, supported by influential Libyan tribes, is now in a position to achieve a definitive victory over the militias that have allied with the Tripoli-based GNA. 

Many questions continue to hover over the prospects of achieving a lasting ceasefire. Will this attempt launched in Berlin succeed where others have failed? Will monitors be able to restrain the warring forces? Will it be possible to persuade combatants to lay down their arms? Moreover, the situation on the ground is now more complicated than ever due to the recent Turkish military intervention on the side of the militias that have controlled the capital, Tripoli, for many years. This intervention epitomises another crucial aspect of the problem, namely the foreign interventions that have exploited the collapse of the Libyan state in order to achieve political and material gains at the expense of the Libyan people.

The participants in Berlin who agreed to usher in a new phase that will lead to an end to the Libyan crisis are looking forward not just to a lasting ceasefire but also to the resumption of the UN-sponsored political process in Geneva on 27 January. In this context, Egypt’s participation in Berlin underscored its unwavering position on the Libyan crisis. As President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told other conference participants, Egypt supports a comprehensive approach to a resolution of the Libyan crisis covering all political, economic and security-related matters. In this framework, Egypt has made it clear that it does not deal with militias and other paramilitary entities, but rather with legitimate national armies. It is a position shared by the UAE and Russia. 

Radicalised militias and paramilitary entities cannot be part of any political or military agreement. They should not be granted legitimacy in this or any other manner. Unfortunately, the Tripoli-based government has worked in precisely the opposite direction through its relationship with such militias and the mercenaries that Turkey brought into Libya from Syria in order to support Al-Sarraj. These militias and mercenaries are consuming petroleum revenues that belong to the Libyan people and they are working to promote a situation in Libya that excludes the national army and the House of Representatives, which is the only popularly elected body in Libya. 

The coming days and weeks will tell us whether the Berlin conference was as successful as billed and whether the international community can produce a new reality in a country ravaged by nine years of war and that has become vulnerable to outside powers that have preyed on the conflict to achieve material gains and fulfil their own political ambitions. 


*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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