The German capital hosts a multilateral summit to define "the second phase for peace" in the North African country

Libya debates its future at the 2nd Berlin Conference

photo_camera AFP/MICHAEL SOHN - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas delivering a welcoming speech at the start of the Second Berlin Conference on Peace in Libya.

Libya's incumbent government is seeking a final push to clear the way for political transition and bring some stability to the North African country. The presence of foreign fighters, mostly from Russia and Turkey, and disagreements over the roadmap to elections are preventing the new institutions from fully functioning for the time being.

Against this backdrop, the German capital is hosting the second conference on Libya on Wednesday. Representatives of the world's major powers are meeting in Berlin with the aim of resolving the new scenario that the country is going through until the next elections on 24 December.

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has attended the summit. In a previous appearance, Blinken said that they share with Germany "the goal of a sovereign, stable, unified and secure Libya, free from foreign interference". "That is what the people deserve, and it is essential for regional security," he said.

On the table are several issues to be resolved in order to unblock the political process. The development of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and the establishment of a constitutional and legal basis for the holding of the elections are the top priorities of the conveners.

El secretario de Estado de EE.UU., Antony Blinken , hace una declaraci贸n a la prensa al inicio de la Segunda Conferencia de Berl铆n sobre la paz en Libia AFP/ANDREW HARNIK

The head of the Presidential Council, Mohamed Menfi, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeiba and Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush are leading the Libyan delegation, accompanied by foreign ministers and senior representatives of international institutions.

Mangoush announced ahead of the summit that the acting government would propose the 'Stability of Libya' initiative, a blueprint drawn up by the National Unity Government over the past three months that contains a series of measures to resolve the economic crisis and the security challenge. 

"The initiative aims to give Libyans a say in this new period in cooperation with the countries that supported our stability. It will also propose the formation of an international working group chaired by Libya at the level of foreign ministers to reinforce Libya's vision of solutions and maintain its sovereignty," Mangoush revealed.

The unification of the Libyan army under a single command and the activation of the ceasefire agreement, including the setting of a deadline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, are among the proposals to be put forward by the Libyan delegation.

A large number of countries are represented at the summit, including Algeria, China, France, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland and Tunisia. In addition, the UN, the European Union and the Arab League make up the panel of international organisations involved.

El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores alem谩n, Heiko Maas, el primer ministro libio, abdul hamid dbeiba, la ministra de asuntos exteriores libia, najla mangoush, y la secretaria general adjunta de la onu para asuntos pol铆ticos y de consolidaci贸n de la paz, rosemary dicarlo AFP/MICHAEL SOHN

The Berlin Conference, held just over a year ago, paved the way for the establishment of a UN-sponsored inter-Libyan political process. Since then, there have been significant developments in the conflict.

The ceasefire, agreed in October 2020, was the first step towards political transition. The pact called for the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya within 90 days. This resolution led, in turn, to an agreement on elections and the appointment of a new transitional government.

Following the first Berlin Conference, the parties established working groups to unify political, economic and security institutions, a mission that is still ongoing. However, "many challenges still lie ahead," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after his bilateral meeting with Dbeiba and Mangoush on Tuesday.

Libya took over the new institutions created 'ad hoc' for the implementation of the political transition in March. UN Security Council members gave the green light to the Interim Presidency Council and the Interim Government of National Unity "as entities tasked with leading Libya towards the national elections on 24 December".

Mapa que muestra las zonas de control de las fuerzas en Libia. Las potencias mundiales se re煤nen el mi茅rcoles en Berl铆n para buscar una paz duradera en el pa铆s norteafricano, asolado por el conflicto AFP/AFP

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) established in November the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), a 75-member group convened to unblock the political deadlock. However, initial progress on the roadmap has stalled in recent weeks.

In light of the situation, Antony Blinken and his counterparts plan to insist on compliance with the core points of UN Security Council Resolution 2570, namely, backing the Government of National Unity (GNU), maintaining the ceasefire, holding elections on time and ensuring that foreign military forces and mercenaries withdraw as soon as possible.

Threats and doubts 

Threats to stability remain. The main challenge is whether to hold direct presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously or to allow the elected parliament to choose the president. Another question is the eligibility requirements for candidates.

On the latter point, the UN ordered the Libyan parliament to accept the constitutional basis for the elections and adopt electoral legislation by 1 July, giving the country's High National Electoral Commission sufficient time to prepare before the vote. However, disagreements on constitutional matters engendered the political deadlock for the adoption of the legal framework.

Therefore, it remains unclear whether a constitutional referendum will be held before the elections. In any case, General Khalifa Haftar has flatly rejected the referendum as it would prevent him from running for president. According to the draft, dual citizens and those on active military service are not eligible to stand for election, requirements that Haftar does not fulfil as he is a US national.

el mariscal  libio Khalifa Haftar gesticula mientras habla durante las celebraciones del D铆a de la Independencia en Bengasi, Libia 24 de diciembre de 2020 PHOTO/REUTERS

Foreign interference is also still present. "As of today, there has been no withdrawal of mercenaries, no withdrawal of foreign fighters, but plans for withdrawal are being prepared, especially by the Libyan Joint Military Commission," warned UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya Georgette Gagnon.

Foreign mercenaries hinder real progress in the North African country. The UN counts a total of 20,000 fighters sent by Russia, through the Wagner Group, and Turkey. For this reason, the Libyan military leadership is preparing a forceful response to expel foreign mercenaries from the country, Gagnon revealed. 

Meanwhile, the prime minister on Sunday attended the reopening of the road connecting the coastal towns of Sirte and Misrata, which had been closed for two years because of the conflict. Dbeiba stressed that the resumption of activities is key to the life of the population and called for unity.

The Prime Minister's appearance followed the Presidential Council's ban on unauthorised military movements in the country. The institutional decision was preceded by the seizure of a border post with Algeria by forces led by General Haftar. 

They launched a military operation on Thursday to "track down takfiri terrorists", according to the LNA itself. The Presidential Council sent its own troops to the south in response to Haftar's action, setting off tensions between the parties.

More in Politics