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Libyan belligerents sign permanent national ceasefire agreement

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Friday, October 23rd 2020 à 23:00 | Read 312 times

Libya must now rebuild itself (photo: OCHA/Giles Clarke).
Libya must now rebuild itself (photo: OCHA/Giles Clarke).
LIBYA. Negotiations organised under the aegis of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva led to the signing of a ceasefire in Libya on Friday 23 October 2020. The two Libyan military delegations had been meeting for five days in a 5+5 format, building on the meagre progress made at the Berlin International Conference on Libya, held on 19 January 2020.

Discussions started on Monday 19 October 2020 at the Palais des Nations, and normally scheduled to last until Saturday 24 October 2020, moved quickly forward. "The Libyan parties have reached an agreement on a permanent ceasefire throughout Libya. This achievement represents an important turning point towards peace and stability" in that country, the UN Support Mission in Libya (Manul) said. It said it is taking up its duties with "immediate effect".

It is therefore the official end of the civil war that began in October 2011 with the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, followed by his assassination. The jihadists almost annihilated, the country was still under fire and blood because of an opposition between the government of national accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, the only one recognized by the United Nations and born of the Skhirat agreements at the end of 2015, and the Parliament of Tobruk reigning over the East and part of the South. The Libyan divide seemed impossible to bridge since then.

Departures of mercenaries and foreign fighters within 3 months

Stephanie Williams, acting head of Manul, succeeded in getting a permanent ceasefire signed in Libya (photo: Violaine Martin/UN)
Stephanie Williams, acting head of Manul, succeeded in getting a permanent ceasefire signed in Libya (photo: Violaine Martin/UN)
Several meetings had been held in Paris, Palermo, Moscow and Berlin in particular, to reconcile Fayez al-Sarraj (GNA) and Marshal Khalifa Haftar (Libyan East strongman with the Libyan National Army ANL) with always failure as a conclusion. To the point of making Ghassan Salamé, tired of incessant reversals, give up his mission as head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (Manul), based in Tunis. But there was still hope. Until Khalifa Haftar decided to push his advantage on the ground by deciding to attack the capital in April 2019. And even to proclaim himself the master of Libyan destiny, because "invested with a mandate from the people" giving him the right to govern the country alone, "until a civilian government can be restored.

Turkey's military interference in this conflict alongside pro-GNA forces, and despite Khalifa Haftar's support from Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, led to the defeat of the opposition to the legal government after 14 months of fratricidal fighting. On 21 August 2020, a first ceasefire declaration gave hope for a resolution of the conflict which could only be "political", according to the European Union and the United Nations. However, the fighting had continued.

"The road has been long and difficult at times. Your patriotism has enabled you to move forward and reach a ceasefire agreement," said Stephanie Williams, acting head of Manul. Already on Wednesday 21 October 2020 in the Palais des Nations, the signing of a text on "the opening of land routes linking all regions and cities of Libya" hinted at an exit from the tunnel. The conclusion is based on an agreement for a departure "of mercenaries and foreign fighters (...) within a maximum period of three months, starting today," she said.

Oil at the heart of the agreement

The two Libyan delegations will have negotiated for five days (photo: Violaine Martin/UN)
The two Libyan delegations will have negotiated for five days (photo: Violaine Martin/UN)
Of course, this ceasefire, while it will facilitate collaboration between the two opponents, does not solve everything. Neither the problem of migrants and refugees (at least 3,300 prisoners in inhuman conditions in the country according to the Manul), nor that of the management of Libya's main resource: oil. Even if both parties have undertaken to "work with the representative of the National Oil Corporation (Editor's note: NOC: Libyan company which manages the oil activity) to propose a restructuring of the guards of the oil installations", as Stephanie Williams pointed out.

This opens the field (no pun intended) to a balanced sharing of the oil windfall between the two camps, a result of the end of the blockade of the terminals by the ANL in August 2020, which prevented any exports since January 2020. But also to an increase in the production of hydrocarbons decided jointly in Geneva. According to the NOC, the blockade of wells since January 2020 would have caused more than $9.8 billion (€8.3 billion) in lost revenue.

The political problem remains, as these were only military talks in Geneva. It can only be resolved by elections repeatedly promised since May 2018 and the firm commitment in a joint declaration by the two leaders, under the aegis of Emmanuel Macron, to hold presidential and legislative elections on 10 December 2018.

Constitution of a Presidential Council to appoint a Prime Minister accepted by all

In September 2020, successively, Abdallah el-Thani, head of the parallel Libyan government in Benghazi supported by the ANL, and Fayez al-Sarraj, had decided to resign. The former immediately, the latter at the end of October 2020.
The future passes by the constitution of a Libyan Presidential Council discussed during two meetings in September 2020 (Bouznika in Morocco and Montreux in Switzerland). This executive will appoint a head of government accepted by all to prepare for presidential and legislative elections that could be held by March 2021.

This initialled text, however, gives the vision of a Libya once again at peace, if not united. "We welcome the announcement of this agreement. It is good news. But its implementation is also important, because it will be the key to the resumption of political negotiations", commented the spokesman for the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell.

"I hope that future generations of Libyans will see today's agreement as a courageous and essential first step towards a comprehensive settlement of the Libyan crisis, which has lasted too long", stressed the acting head of Manul. "We have much, much work to do in the days and weeks ahead to implement the commitments of the agreement," acknowledged Stephanie Williams.

The only spirit of sorrow in this concert of satisfaction, Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted to the news with a dubious pout: "Today's ceasefire agreement was not concluded at the highest level, but at a lower level." For the Turkish president, it "seems to lack credibility."

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