UN Special Envoy Salamé has stated that the opportunity for direct negotiations between the conflicting parties in Libya has become a possibility. The ultimate goal is to convert the fragile ceasefire into an end to the conflict.
The United Nations Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, said he identifies “real will” among the parties to the conflict to negotiate a permanent ceasefire. Salamé appeared before the press in Geneva on Tuesday, where five senior military officers from both sides had traveled to negotiations. The Libyan representatives are in principle in agreement that such an agreement should be reached, Salamé said. However, he immediately emphasized that this development was only at the beginning of the discussions and not set in stone.
The so-called 5 + 5 military commission, which started work on Monday, is one of the few tangible results of the Berlin Libya summit on January 19, hosted by German Chancellor Merkel. It the first time that senior military officials from both conflicting sides have negotiated with one another, Salamé confirmed in Geneva. According to the will of the international mediators, the military should discuss all relevant security issues and help overcome the significant differences between the conflicting parties.
The Eastern Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, who launched an operation to take over Tripoli in April, has called the disarmament of the militias in the capital as a condition. The latter would be equivalent to a declaration of surrender by his opponents, because the government of Fayez Sarraj, which was set up under UN mediation, relies heavily on these very militias. For its part, it demands that Haftar’s troops retreat to their positions from before the Tripoli campaign.
So far, Haftar has not shown the proclivity to succumb to any demands from the other side. Even a Russian-Turkish initiative to reach a ceasefire agreement failed because of Haftar’s reluctance.
The fragile ceasefire that had been agreed upon during the Berlin summit was violated only one week after all participating actors supported the agreement. UN Mission to Libya spokesman Jean Alam said the ongoing violations threatened to “plunge Libya into a new and intensified round of fighting.” At the same time, it was shown that the outside interference of the Libyan parties to the conflict does not intend to honor their commitments made in Berlin to respect the arms embargo for either side.
Accordingly, the UN mission expressed its frustration at the continued influx of ammunition, fighters and modern weapon systems to both sides in unusual frankness, centered on the allegations that Turkey, the military aid of which the Sarraj government relies heavily, and the United Arab Emirates, who are one of Haftar’s most important supporters.
When UN Special Envoy Salamé broke the collar last week in the UN Security Council and scolded “unscrupulous actors” who nodded “cynically” to the UN’s efforts and at the same time conjured up “further misery for the Libyan people,” Salamé did all but directly pointed his finger to Turkey and Abu Dhabi.
The Berlin conference was supposed to help curb foreign interference and thus take away the Libyan actors’ belief in a military solution to the conflict. So far, however, the Berlin summit has turned out to be toothless. Whether the latest developments of potential negotiations between Haftar and Sarraj can materialize or whether these pledges are yet another way of buying time for either side remains to be seen. What the world has learned so far, however, is precisely what Salamé eluded to during his Security Council remarks: Any kind of negotiation and agreement is not worth the paper it written on, as long as actors do not honor their pseudo commitment but most importantly are not facing any repercussion over it