The Libya Conference will take place in Berlin on June 23. The meeting is intended to stabilize the situation in the country torn by civil war. But who are the actors, which strategies are being discussed, how successful have previous measures been? An overview.
Because of the difficult situation in Libya, a country with a civil war, the United Nations want to stabilize the country. Together with Germany, the UN therefore invited to the first so-called Libya Conference in Berlin in mid-January 2020.
There, all actors should be brought to one table. The hosts were Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Special Envoy for Libya.
Since 2014 there has been a civil war in the North African country: the west with the capital Tripoli against the east with the center Benghazi. In addition, foreign powers are sending soldiers and material.
Who is coming to Berlin on June 23rd?
According to the federal government, the participants who were already at the first conference are invited. For the first time, representatives of the Libyan transitional government are also there.
According to the federal government, these heads of state and government were among those on site in 2020: Russian President Vladimir, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has also announced that he will attend the meeting on Wednesday. In addition, Egypt, Algeria, the Republic of the Congo as well as representatives of the United Arab Emirates and the European Union should be there.
In the run-up to this year’s conference, Greece criticized it for not being invited. “We are extremely dissatisfied with the fact that Germany persistently insists on this tactic,” said Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Foreign Ministry then only stated that the Libya conference on June 23 should be inclusive, but consist of the participants from the previous year, from a group “that guarantees good results”.
What will it be about?
The conference is intended to initiate further steps to stabilize the North African country. The aim is also to take stock of the progress made so far in pacifying Libya.
“The focus is on the preparations for the national elections scheduled for December 24th and the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya as agreed in the ceasefire,” said the Foreign Ministry. “In addition, there will also be steps to unite the Libyan security forces.”
Libya expert Wolfram Lacher from the Science and Politics Foundation doubts that the conference will be a great success on Deutschlandfunk.
The ceasefire agreed upon in the first talks is still in place, but: “The Berlin Libya Process did nothing to end the war. In fact, the intervening states in Libya did not keep the promises they made in Berlin at all, ”said Lacher.
The result of the conference is likely to be a declaration that urges compliance with the election date and the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, says Lacher. “But I would not expect this declaration and the conference itself to have a significant impact.”
Which foreign forces are currently active in Libya?
According to political scientist Wolfram Lacher, on the one hand there is a Turkish military presence. “Turkey has also stationed Syrian mercenaries in Libya.” On the other hand, mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group are still on site, “which is closely connected to the Kremlin and who also fly fighter planes there,” said Lacher. The Wagner group also hired Syrian mercenaries. In addition, there are Sudanese mercenaries hired by the United Arab Emirates.
In Berlin, a new push for lasting peace in Libya
Germany will seek to broker lasting peace in Libya on Wednesday, gathering world powers in Berlin to extract a firm promise to withdraw foreign fighters and keep the North African country on track for its December 24 election.
The efforts to end a decade-long spiral of violence in Libya would bring the country’s transitional government, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to Berlin for the in-person UN-sponsored talks.
In a phone call with Libyan interim Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush just days ahead of the meeting, Blinken “stressed the United States’ commitment to increasing diplomatic engagement to promote international efforts supporting progress in Libya.”
Like host German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Blinken and Mangoush harked back to last year’s meeting and the pledges made but which have not been fully implemented.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey, and France had then vowed to end foreign meddling in Libya and withdraw foreign militants or troops.
Since those talks, a formal truce was agreed last October that led to the creation of a transitional government under Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and a presidential council headed by Mohammad Younes Menfi which have promised to hold polls.
However, the UN has warned that progress has stalled, notably on a key requisite of the polls — the pullout of all foreign soldiers.
The oil-rich country descended into chaos after dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, resulting in multiple forces vying for power.
In recent years Libya has been split between two rival administrations backed by foreign forces and countless militias.
In October, after Turkey-backed forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli routed those of eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, the two camps agreed a ceasefire in Geneva.
The security situation in Libya has been slowly improving since.
But the presence of an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries on Libya’s territory is seen as a threat to the UN-backed transition leading to the elections.
Western leaders have repeatedly called on the foreign fighters to depart.
But Russian mercenaries supporting Haftar’s side in the east of the country are still in place.
Turkey meanwhile has troops in Tripoli, which it argues were sent under a bilateral agreement with the government, implying that they are not affected by a request for foreign troops to leave.
Diplomats underlined the delicate balancing act needed to ensure that neither side feels it is losing out by withdrawing.
Jalel Harchaoui, Global Initiative senior fellow and an expert on Libya, said Wednesday’s talks must go beyond a simple declaration of intent if they are to make a real impact.
“Is there a mechanism for (the fighters) to leave? Are Libyans pushing for them to leave in real life on the ground? No,” he said.
But he voiced hope that the talks would bring tangible help on the upcoming elections.
“Somebody could come up with a good idea of agreeing on a constitutional basis in July and be on course for elections in December,” he said, referring to a key requisite for the polls.
“I think there’s a good chance (for elections by year’s end) and the Berlin process could help.”
Debayan Paul is a freelance digital reporter and Editor-in-chief of We The World Magazine