UN envoy for Libya expresses hope the agreement will succeed in ending suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by conflict to return to their homes.
Libya’s warring sides signed an agreement for “a permanent ceasefire in all areas of Libya“, the United Nations Libya mission said in a Facebook post on Friday, showing live video of the ceremony to sign the agreement.
After mediation this week led by UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Turco Williams, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission reached what the United Nations called an “important turning point towards peace and stability in Libya.”
Details were not immediately available, but the two sides were taking part in a signing ceremony in Geneva on Friday morning.
Libya is split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.
The country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
“The road to a permanent cease-fire deal was often long and difficult,” said Williams in a press conference in Geneva, noting that there’s a “great deal of work” to do in the coming weeks to implement the commitments. She expressed hope the agreement will succeed “in ending the suffering of Libyans and allowing those displaced by the conflict to return to their homes.”
On Wednesday, Williams had said the two warring factions agreed on issues that “directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people,” citing agreements to open air and land routes in the country, to work to ease inflammatory rhetoric in Libyan media, and to help kickstart Libya’s vital oil industry.
Last month, the two sides reached preliminary agreements to exchange prisoners and open up air and land transit across the country’s divided territory.
This breakthrough also accompanied the resumption of oil production after a months-long blockade by powerful tribes allied with army commander Khalifa Hifter.
Hifter’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 to try and capture Tripoli, the seat of the UN-supported government in the west. But his campaign collapsed in June.
Fighting has since died down amid international pressure on both sides to avert an attack on the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil export terminals.
Ceasefire will not survive foreign meddling
By Heba Saleh and Andrew England
A senior Libyan official has warned that the fragile ceasefire to end the civil war in the oil-rich north African country will only survive if rival foreign countries stop meddling in the conflict.
Fathi Bashagha, interior minister in the UN-backed government in Tripoli, told the Financial Times that the biggest challenge would be foreign “interference”, or a lack of international support to help Libyans “implement the ceasefire”.
The UN announced the truce on Friday, halting 19 months of fighting that erupted after renegade general Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive in Tripoli against the Government of National Accord.
The conflict rapidly became a proxy war, with the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt backing Gen Haftar and Turkey supporting the GNA.
All are accused of violating an arms embargo as Libya was flooded with weapons and mercenaries from Russia, Syria, Sudan and Chad.
The warring Libyan factions have relied on outside support, and Mr Bashagha said Gen Haftar, who controls eastern parts of the country, would not pose a threat if his foreign backers abandoned him.
“He is only dangerous because of the support of foreign countries which provide him with weapons and military equipment,” said Mr Bashagha, who is one of the most influential members of the GNA.
He added that foreign forces supporting the GNA would also have to leave. As well as weapons and air-defence systems, Turkey dispatched Syrian fighters to support forces loyal to the Tripoli government.
Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in Libya intensified amid mounting fears that foreign rivalries would trigger a broader conflagration on the south Mediterranean.
After Gen Haftar suffered a string of defeats at the hands of Turkish-backed fighters this year, the US military accused Russia of deploying 14 MiG-29 and Su-24 fighter jets to the country.
Egypt then threatened to send troops across its border if forces allied to the Tripoli government advanced eastward past the strategic city of Sirte.
The ceasefire calls for all foreign fighters to leave the country within three months — something that analysts say will prove difficult because they represent a security guarantee for the two sides.
The agreement is supposed to lead to political talks to pave the way for elections next year.
Tarek Megerisi, a Libya specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the ceasefire reflected an international consensus on the need for a political settlement in Libya.
But he added that there needed to be more international pressure on the foreign powers backing the Libyan factions. “Who will tell the Turks and the Russians to leave?” he said. “The Turks have been sending daily military flights. The Russians and Haftar’s forces have been building defensive structures all the way from Sirte to Jufra [in central Libya]. Will they abandon them?”
Still, Mr Bashagha said the countries that had bet on a Haftar victory had started to review their stance. “There is a change in the Egyptian position. This is clear. The departure point for Egypt is always its national security,” he said, referring to Egypt’s shared border with Libya. He added that there also appeared to be “positive change” in Moscow.
But he said it was unclear whether the UAE, Gen Haftar’s staunchest supporter and the source of much of his more sophisticated arms, had shifted its position.
Even if the foreign powers retreat from the country, Libya will face huge challenges after years of chaos and violence, with the country in effect divided between east and west.
Both the weak GNA and Gen Haftar are dependent on predatory militias that have carved the country into a patchwork of fiefdoms in the absence of an effective national security force.
In the west there are already concerns that rival factions which united to fight Gen Haftar could turn their guns on each other as the threat from the east recedes.
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Mr Bashagha, a former air force pilot who was credited with attempting to rein in Tripoli’s militias when he was first appointed two years ago, said his ministry had developed a plan to demobilise local fighters and integrate them into national security forces.
He said the interior ministry had already worked out a classification for militiamen with no criminal record registered under a “green” tag that qualified them to receive training as policemen.
But he added that it would be crucial to revive the shattered economy to provide jobs outside the security sectors, something the GNA has failed to deliver since it took office in 2016.
“There’s a need for a programme at the state level, and not just the interior ministry, to rehabilitate and integrate individuals,” Mr Bashagha said.
Mr Megerisi said dealing with the militias was a huge task. “They have weapons, money and connections and are like mafias,” he said. “They are at the highest level of the state and to remove them from the system will be very difficult . . . [In some towns] they are like an army, so if you give them an order and they don’t want to follow it, what can you do?”
Peace in Libya seems highly unlikely
By Kurtis Lee
The Syrian Civil War has lasted nearly nine years and has been riddled with massive amounts of violence. Syria has become a geopolitical nightmare for everyone involved, but another situation like Syria is happening in Libya.
The Libyan Civil War is fought between the UN-backed Government of National Accord and the House of Representatives backed by warlord Khalifa Haftar.
This conflict erupted into an international showdown between foreign powers looking for access to the country’s oil fields or to establish dominance over the region.
Muammar Gaddafi, who had been the leader of Libya for more than 40 years, was overthrown and killed by revolutionaries during the Arab Spring on Oct. 20, 2011.
After Gaddafi, Libya was led by two rival governments, the House and the GNA. Khalifa Haftar was a general who had previously worked under Gaddafi and had been living in the U.S. for 20 years before returning to Libya during the Arab Spring.
Once in Libya, Haftar got to work, creating the Libyan National Army and choosing to side with the House.
Haftar’s allies, such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, oppose the GNA’s ties to political Islam, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the GNA is backed by the UN and has control over Libya’s capital in Tripoli.
The GNA and Haftar see themselves as the leader of Libya. Both sides control armies and are backed by powerful foreign allies looking to further their own interests.
Both factions see a Libya led by their rival as a condition they can never accept and will continue to pour men, money and material onto the battlefield to fulfill their vision of a unified Libya.
However, their allies see peace efforts as a way to become a power broker in the region. Because of this, nearly all peace efforts have been led by their allies.
The Berlin Conference on Jan. 19 was the largest of the peace efforts. The conference resulted in an arms embargo fraught with vague conditions and no set punishment for violations of the embargo.
Not long after, Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE sent weapons and troops into the country. The UN deputy special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, later called the embargo “a joke.”
A ceasefire was signed in Moscow between the two factions, in Russia’s attempt to establish its influence in the war. GNA president, Fayez al-Sarraj, and Khalifa Haftar signed the ceasefire, but violations still occurred every day.
One big reason why peace efforts have been failing in Libya is because of Khalifa Haftar, who is willing to do whatever it takes to finally control all of Libya.
The Libyan National Conference was planned to take place in April 2019 but was canceled by an attack on Tripoli by Haftar. The LNA has also been blocking Libyan oil exports, holding the economy hostage.
Also, his foreign allies of the UAE and Egypt see the GNA’s continued tolerance of political Islam as a threat to their autocratic regimes.
Overall, peace in Libya remains highly unlikely, if not impossible. Both sides refuse to compromise and foreign powers, seeing some sort of benefit, only add more chaos to the situation.