Why the Libyan Dialog is the First Step Toward Peace in Libya

Morocco and Egypt recently presided over joint talks between rival leaders in Libya and it’s been reported that both sides have been able to secure some substantial breakthroughs, particularly regarding elections and uniting rival governments.

Dubbed the Libyan Dialog, the talks brought together five participants from the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which controls the capital, Tripoli, as well as the northwest, and five figures from the House of Representatives (HoR), based in Tobruk.

An Agreement Seems Possible

Although the HoR’s Idris Omran did not provide further details on the objectives that both sides agreed to, the two groups said that they would meet again during the final week of September to finalize mechanisms that would implement the agreement.

Consultations also took place in Montreux, Switzerland, on September 7 to 9 under the auspices of the Center for Humanitarian Dialog. Stephanie Williams, the UN’s interim envoy to Libya, told Al-Jazeera that the Montreux talks “would provide a basis for all responsible Libyan stakeholders to forge the way forward.”

Elections in Libya May Soon Become a Reality

While it was not clear if any of the discussions in Morocco included binding agreements, members of both delegations said that one of the key points of agreement was to split positions in the ruling Council of State from among Libya’s three geographic regions.

Negotiators are due to meet in Switzerland on September 17, and they have agreed that elections must be held on a mutually acceptable constitutional framework.

Considering the GNA and the LNA, led by General Khalifa Haftar, have been engaged in a long civil war that has allowed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to take advantage of the chaos in the war-torn country, this is a remarkable achievement.

If both sides play their cards carefully, they could realistically end the Libyan war in the near future.

Peace Seemed Unlikely Only a Few Months Ago

Steps toward peace did not seem possible months ago. In June, increased Turkish support allowed pro-GNA forces to seize control of northwest Libya, which devastated Haftar’s plans to occupy Tripoli. The strategic city of Sirte, which could provide Russia with a gateway to dominate the ports of Sidra, Ras Lanuf, Marsa al-Brega and Zuwetina, where three gas conduits and 11 oil pipelines reach the Mediterranean coast, also became a bone of contention between Ankara and Moscow at one stage. Until the war is over, a siege on the city still seems possible.

However, the Geneva talks will be much harder than the ones held last week. Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that Arab states must oppose Turkish interference during a meeting in Cairo. Yet it is almost certain that both Turkey and Russia will want a stake in determining Libya’s future.

The Arab Weekly reports that the GNA was opposed to Turkey’s withdrawal from Libya and it is likely this issue will cause a stir in future peace talks. They added that Erdoğan was unhappy about being excluded from the Moroccan talks.

Russia and Turkey May Jeopardize Peace

Russian and Turkish ambitions in Libya could become an obstacle to peace and both nations may carve the country up between them. For example, Turkey could acquiesce to Russian control of al-Jufra in return for Sirte. It will be interesting to see if Ankara and Moscow fulfill their territorial aspirations in the region and how far they are willing to go to do so.

The Libyan people are also crucial for peace to become a reality. This was acknowledged by Russian Ambassador Aleksei Erkho. Thomas M. Hill of the US Institute of Peace believes that Libya’s citizens have played an active role in making peace possible through initiatives like successfully convincing young people in the city of Misrata to quit the local militia.

Therefore, the Libyan people themselves must provide their consent for any peace agreement.

The Libyan Dialog has helped guarantee the beginning of the end of the Libyan conflict, but there are still many stages to go yet.