Conflict Alerts # 402, 30 June 2021
In the news
On 23 June, the Second Berlin Conference on Libya was hosted by the German Foreign Minister and the United Nations Secretary-General. A press release from the Federal Foreign Office of Germany acknowledged the improvement in Libya's situation and reiterated support to the interim Government of National Unity. However, the Conference also held that several measures were yet to be implemented and asked the interim government to ensure elections in December. Lastly, the Conference called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces without delay. The press release said: "We reaffirm our strong commitment to the UN-facilitated, Libyan-led and Libyan owned political process and the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya."
On 28 June, the UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for Libya addressed the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). The Envoy reiterated from the Berlin Conference and said: "I encourage you to move beyond what divides you and to reach a consensus on a possible constitutional basis for the elections in December. By this, you will live up to your responsibilities."
Issues at large
First, the progress in Libya. In October 2020, the two warring sides in Libya – the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the parallel authority, Libyan National Army (LNA) - signed a ceasefire. Subsequently, an interim government was sworn in on 15 March with elected interim Prime Minister, President and Vice President who will ensure that parliamentary and presidential elections are held on 24 December 2021. As of 29 June, the ceasefire has been successful for the longest period in recent times. Previous Libyan-led and Libyan-owned ceasefires had failed as they focused on power-sharing between the GNA and LNA. However, the Berlin Conference emphasizes an entirely new government.
Second, the external actors. The latest Conference included delegations from the UNSC's permanent five countries; Italy, Turkey, the UAE, the European Union, African Union, UN; and other African countries. The attendance of the European and Arab countries is particularly important as they were supporting different sides in the Libyan conflict. For example, Italy and France were supporting the GNA and LNA, respectively; similarly, Qatar and the UAE were also supporting the respective sides. All these countries have now unanimously called for a solution. However, Turkey differs from the rest of the countries on the troop withdrawal and insists on maintaining its forces in Libya as part of an agreement with the GNA. Currently, the UN estimates that over 20,000 foreign mercenaries are present in Libya.
Third, continued European interests in Africa. The Berlin Conference was first held in February 2020. Between the first and second Conferences, European countries, especially Germany and France have displayed an increased interest in Africa. For example, in March, France reopened its embassy in Tripoli after seven years. France has also been mending its relations with Rwanda, and the French President visited Rwanda in May. Similarly, Germany recognized the genocide between 1904 to 1908 in Namibia, which was a German colony.
First, the solution to the conflict lies in the inclusivity of all conflicting parties in the new government. Therefore, the months leading up to December will be crucial as they will decide whether the emphasis on a "Libyan-led and Libyan owned" will reap the required results or not.
Second, the Conference is another step in European countries trying to correct their positions in Africa. The Conference also reflected a strong US interest in the finding a solution to the Libyan conflict.