The world’s major powers will meet in Berlin on Wednesday to seek lasting peace in Libya by ensuring that the conflict-torn North African countries are firmly on the path of holding general elections on December 24.
Representatives of the Libyan interim government will participate in UN-sponsored talks with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken and the foreign ministers of France and Egypt.
After the presidents of Turkey, Russia and France participated in the first round in January 2020, efforts to end the decade-long cycle of violence in Libya will be the second round in Berlin.
Prior to Wednesday’s talks, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reminded participants of the pledge made last year to end international intervention and the withdrawal of foreign fighters or troops.
“The people who promised to quit in Berlin last time did not keep their promise,” Maas said in an interview with the World Journal.
“In order for the Libyans to decide the fate of their country again, foreign troops must leave. The Transitional Government has made this clear,” he emphasized.
The United Nations estimates that there are still 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya — a presence that is seen as a threat to the transition that the United Nations recognizes that leads to elections.
Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
The country subsequently split into the UN-sanctioned Government of National Unity (GNA) in the capital Tripoli and a hostile government in the east of the country, each with the support of armed groups and foreign governments.
In April 2019, with the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the rebellious military commander Khalifa Haftar and his eastern forces launched an offensive in an attempt to seize Tripoli.
After Turkey strengthened its support for the Tripoli government with advanced military equipment, troops and thousands of mercenaries, his 14-month campaign failed.
In October, after the Turkish-backed GNA forces defeated the Haftar forces, the two camps agreed to a ceasefire in Geneva.
The existence of Russia and Turkey
Since then, the security situation in Libya has been slowly improving. However, the United Nations recently warned that progress has stalled, especially with regard to a key requirement of the polls-the withdrawal of all foreign soldiers.
Western leaders have repeatedly called on foreign fighters to leave. But Russian mercenaries supporting Haftar in the east still exist.
Turkey has an army in Tripoli, which it argues is dispatched under a bilateral agreement with the government, which means that they are not affected by the withdrawal of foreign troops.
But the German Foreign Minister said that any withdrawal is also a delicate balancing act.
Maas said: “Foreign troops must leave the country in a gradual and unified manner so that there will be no sudden military imbalances and can be used by one party to launch a sudden attack.”
Jalel Harchaoui, a senior researcher at Global Initiatives and an expert on Libya issues, also believes that the talks can bring practical help to the upcoming elections.
“Someone might come up with a good idea to reach agreement on the basis of the constitution in July and hold elections in December,” he said, referring to a key requirement of the polls. “I think this is a good opportunity [for elections by year’s end] The Berlin process may help. “
Claudia Gazzini of the think tank Crisis Group warned that there is still a long way to go to achieve long-term peace in Libya, but the meeting can bring new vitality to the process.
“Libya’s parliament and administration cannot promote this process alone,” Gazzini said. “This is why tensions between rival groups have increased again recently.”