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A UN official shows the ballot box to participants of the UN-hosted Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Geneva, 5 February 2021. UNSMIL

Against All Odds, Libya’s Peace Process Makes Substantial Progress

On 5 February, Libyan delegates attending UN-hosted political talks in Geneva nominated a new unified interim executive for their country, which has been split in two regions, each administered separately, since 2014. They chose eastern Libya’s Mohamed Mnefi to head a new three-person Presidency Council and a businessman from Misrata in western Libya, Abdulhamid Dabaiba, as prime minister-designate. If confirmed, this executive would serve until elections in late 2021. The Mnefi-Dabaiba list won by a slim majority in a race with other heavyweights including the eastern parliament’s speaker, Aghela Saleh, and the Tripoli government’s interior minister, Fathi Bashaga.…  Seguir leyendo »

President of Libya's interim government Mohammad Younes Menfi (L) meets warlord Khalifa Haftar (R) in Benghazi, Libya on 11 February 2021. Photo by Khalifa Haftar Forces Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

On 5 February, the UN-assembled Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) appointed a new interim government. Intended to see the country through until elections scheduled for 24 December 2021, the appointment of the Government of National Unity (GNU) ostensibly breaks the political deadlock of the past five years. But what can the GNU achieve? And how should the international community respond?

A limited mandate and low expectations

February 2021 conjures images of the same period in 2016, when the unity government produced by UN-mediated talks, the Government of National Accord (GNA), was unable to overcome the institutional divides that had emerged in 2014. …  Seguir leyendo »

Participants attend the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunis, on 9 November 2020. REUTERS / Zoubeir Souissi

Fragile Progress toward a Unity Government for Libya

Despite a reported breakthrough in mid-January, there are still many steps to take before an interim unity government can emerge in Libya. The country has been divided in two, between two parallel governments and military coalitions that have been intermittently at war, since 2014. Participants in the 75-member forum that the UN assembled to bring the two back together agreed on an internal voting mechanism for appointing top officials. But the complicated voting process could easily trigger further disputes. Moreover, rival Libyan factions disagree on who should lead the country and are only paying lip service to transparency in voting.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan military graduates loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) take part in a parade marking their graduation, a result of a military training agreement with Turkey, at the Omar Mukhtar camp on 21 November 2020. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

Foreign Actors Drive Military Build-up amid Deadlocked Political Talks

A tenuous ceasefire continues to hold in Libya between forces allied to the Tripoli-based government and their rivals in the east. Yet there is reason to worry that the five-month hiatus in the conflict could end abruptly. The 23 October ceasefire agreement silenced the guns but otherwise is a dead letter: both sides have backtracked on fulfilling its terms and instead continue to build up their military forces. Another concern is the failure to find a political way forward. The UN’s attempt to revive dialogue and appoint a new Presidency Council and prime minister to head a unity government has floundered.…  Seguir leyendo »

UN acting envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams speaks at the opening of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum hosted in Gammarth on the outskirts of the Tunisian capital, with the attendance of Tunisian President Kais Saied (C), on 9 November 2020. FETHI BELAID / AFP

Negotiations Run Aground, Threatening Political and Economic Stalemate

A fragile ceasefire signed in October is holding in Libya, and thus far renewed conflict has been averted. But tensions remain high, especially as the year is about to end with no substantial progress in political and economic negotiations that were supposed to pave the way for reunifying a country that has been divided in two, with rival governments and parallel financial and military institutions, since 2014. UN-mediated talks to appoint a unity government are faltering, as delegates have so far failed to agree on how to choose candidates for senior positions. A temporary deal on oil revenues in September enabled the resumption of production and exports and helped de-escalate military tensions in central Libya.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Wart for Libyan Oil Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

At the dawn of the 20th century, America was feeling brash and bold. Having just defeated Spain in a war that ranged from Cuba to the Philippines, it was clear that we were an emerging power. But what was that going to mean?

The 19th century idea of “Manifest Destiny,” which required that, by some sort of divine right, we should rule the Western Hemisphere had faded, but — as the Philippines showed — the temptation of American colonialism was strong.

In that context, John Hay wrote a letter to a friend. Hay began his government career as private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and at the time he wrote the letter was U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s a “scandal,” according to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres. Many more say it’s a mess. It’s also a critical battlefield for the future of the Arab world, according to engaged capitals.

It’s Libya.

The 2011 international military intervention in Libya was about being on the right side of history, just as the Arab Spring was supposed to bring a new and bright democratic future to the entire region. The Paris of Nicolas Sarkozy, followed by the London of David Cameron, was enthusiastically charging full speed ahead, while the Washington of Barack Obama was relunctantly “leading from behind.” And after half a year of bombing, the bizarre 42-year rule of Col.…  Seguir leyendo »

La doble tragedia de Libia

La situación de Libia, un país rico en petróleo y segmentado tribalmente, se asemeja a la de otros países devastados por la guerra en el Gran Oriente Medio, entre ellos Afganistán, Siria y Yemen. En cada caso, una combinación de luchas internas y de intervención externa desacertada ha sostenido un conflicto que viene de largo.

Al recordar las invasiones lideradas por Estados Unidos de Afganistán (2001) e Irak (2003) en su memoria de 2014 Duty, el ex secretario de Defensa Robert Gates sostenía que Estados Unidos era bueno a la hora de derrocar un régimen, pero que no tenía ni idea de lo que debería ocupar su lugar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Forces loyal to Libya's U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord parade a Pantsir air defense system truck in Tripoli on Wednesday after capturing it at from forces loyal to Libya's eastern-based strongman Khalifa Hifter. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, Field Marshall Khalifa Hifter, commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), surprised Libyans on the eve of Ramadan with an address calling on them to reject “all the institutions” established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).

Four days later he claimed a mandate for military rule. But this has yet to transpire, with Hifter forced into negotiations with civilian counterparts. As his military fortunes have also taken a significant setback, Hifter is now on the defensive on all fronts. The coming weeks may be decisive for his ambitions.

Libya’s government dysfunction continues

The LPA, signed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2015, paved the way for the formation of a unity “Government of National Accord” (GNA) and sought to accommodate rival factions by maintaining the eastern-based House of Representatives as the parliament and the Tripoli-based remnants of the previous parliament as a consultative body.…  Seguir leyendo »

Posters of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar line the streets of the eastern Libyan city of al-Bayda, where the (unrecognised) interim government in located, November 2018. CRISISGROUP

In a short televised speech late on 27 April, Khalifa Haftar declared that he accepted the people’s “mandate” to scrap the 2015 UN-mediated Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and empower the General Command of the Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), the military force he heads, to take charge of the country’s governing institutions.

The LPA gives international recognition to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, against which Haftar has waged a deadly war since April 2019. While neither Haftar nor the allied Tobruk-based House of Representatives and its government has recognised the LPA, they have accepted it as the basis for negotiations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan Army soldiers wear masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus during a military operation in Tripoli, on March 25. Credit Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

On a recent visit to Libya, I met a family living in an improvised shelter in a displaced persons camp east of Tripoli. One of the tens of thousands Libyan families uprooted by war, the family of seven was living in a room barely 20 paces long and half as wide. A clothesline, a pile of mattresses, a hot plate and the stench of body odor filled the room. Outside, they faced a shortage of potable water and abusive taunts from locals.

The spread of the novel coronavirus will have a devastating effect on the Middle East’s communities of refugees and migrants.…  Seguir leyendo »

Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, meets Libya’s eastern government deputy prime minister, Abdul Rahman al-Ahiresh.

The most recent ally of Khalifa Haftar, the general who has been attacking the Libyan capital Tripoli since April last year, is Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

This union was formalised last week with the opening of a “Libyan embassy” in Damascus. The alarming partnership has been forged almost completely without comment. What happens with Libya no longer seems to concern anyone. It’s as though the whole conflict has ceased to exist.

Libya is not the Middle East’s forgotten war, it is the ignored war. Having burned for almost five years now, the country has almost entirely collapsed, a situation which minimal political will could have prevented.…  Seguir leyendo »

Qué está en juego en Libia

La actual guerra en Libia es un microcosmos de la tragedia que ha atrapado a muchos países del Medio Oriente. De no resolverse pronto, la lucha en Libia podría sembrar inestabilidad entre los países vecinos, como Túnez y Egipto, y disparar la huida de más oleadas de refugiados hacia Europa.

La crisis libia tiene sus orígenes en una guerra civil entre varios grupos divididos por lealtades tribales y regionales, así como sus creencias ideológicas. Todos se disputan el control de los ingresos que genera el petróleo para el país. Sin embargo, al momento son básicamente dos los frentes del conflicto: el Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional (Government of National Accord, GNA), reconocido internacionalmente y dominado por islamistas, que aún controla la capital, Trípoli; y la Cámara de Representantes (con sede en Tobruk) junto con el Ejército Nacional Libio (Libyan National Army, LNA), bajo el mando del mariscal de campo Jalifa Hafter.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una asignatura pendiente en Libia

Un Estado fallido. En eso se ha convertido Libia a lo largo de la última década, pasando de protagonizar una de las llamadas “Primaveras Árabes” a sumirse en el invierno más severo. La caída del régimen autoritario de Muamar el Gadafi en 2011 no terminó de traer las mejoras en las condiciones sociales que algunos esperaban, sino que puso a los libios a merced del desgobierno y la miseria. Sin que el mundo haya reparado demasiado en ello, la guerra civil que lleva años hostigando a Libia corre el peligro de hacerse crónica.

La comunidad internacional no puede rehuir sus responsabilidades ante esta trágica deriva.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mahmud Turkia/AFP via Getty Images Fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord, which has been reinforced by Turkish-backed Syrian militia forces, at a lookout post near the front line, Tripoli, Libya, January 12, 2020

At a mud-caked intersection this month, some hundred-and-fifty feet from the front line, a lanky militia fighter approached and then abruptly turned around when he saw me, a Westerner. I’ve been covering Libya’s conflicts for years and noticed some minor but distinctive details about his appearance: a do-rag tied around his head, an olive green tactical vest, and perhaps a certain military bearing. The Libyan commander I was with confirmed it, with a chuckle: “That’s not a Libyan look.”

Fifteen minutes later, I was inside a poured-concrete villa that served as the living quarters for a group of war-hardened Syrian fighters.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) speak as they attend an inauguration ceremony of a new gas pipeline "TurkStream" on 8 January 2020 in Istanbul. AFP/Ozan KOSE

What happened in Moscow? 

On Monday, Russian government officials hosted Libya’s two rival leaders, whose respective military forces have been at war for nine months, in a bid to usher them toward a ceasefire agreement. One is Faiez Serraj, who heads the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli; the other is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, who leads a coalition called the Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), previously known as the Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar’s coalition does not recognise the Serraj government, and in April launched an offensive to take control of the Libyan capital. Fighting has killed over 2,000 people, put Tripoli under siege by Haftar’s forces and sucked in several foreign powers.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week, Libyan cease-fire talks brokered by Russia and Turkey addressed the country’s latest bout of conflict, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Libyans. Negotiations took place between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rival Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF).

Russia and Turkey’s involvement represented a change in international engagement with Libya’s conflict, as they asserted their leadership in the political process and attempted to sideline Western countries and the United Nations. It looked as if it was set to pay off. The prime minister of the GNA, Fayez Serraj, agreed to the deal, but commander of the LAAF, Khalifa Hifter, left Moscow without signing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los críticos del presidente turco Recep Tayyip Erdoğan en el extranjero lo consideran un megalómano cuasidictatorial. Pero ahora Erdoğan (que fue primer ministro de Turquía durante once años antes de ser elegido presidente en 2014) también es un apostador imprudente. Turquía ha comenzado a desplegar tropas en Libia a pedido del Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional (GAN), que tiene el respaldo de Naciones Unidas y lleva ocho meses rodeado en Trípoli por el avance de las fuerzas del Ejército Nacional Libio (ENL) comandadas por el mariscal Khalifa Haftar.

Será una locura en sentido militar y diplomático. Erdoğan ya tiene al lado de Turquía el perturbador ejemplo del conflicto sirio.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aphrodite rose gracefully out of the waters of the eastern Mediterranean and its Nereids guided sailors in distress. How did this sea, cradle of so many civilisations, end up as a military flashpoint? This year its eastern shores could become Europe’s equivalent of the South China Sea, bristling with great power tension, or a model for co-operation. I would like to believe the latter but it is going to require a leap of faith in the ability of hard-nosed autocrats to give ground and in terrorist groups to show restraint. That’s a stretch.

Let’s start with the positive. The discovery of large undersea hydrocarbon reserves is giving shape to a new regional constellation: Egypt and Cyprus, Israel and Greece.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel greets Fayez al-Serraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya, in May. Photo: Getty Images.

There has been a stark contrast between messaging coming from the international community and trends on the ground as Libya’s latest bout of civil war enters its eighth month.

Led by Germany, some states have been trying to build consensus for a ceasefire ahead of a summit that is expected to be held in Berlin in the next few months. Today marks the date of one of the final planning meetings for the summit.

The increasing use of drone technology, airstrikes and further influxes of fighters trend points in the opposite direction. Warring groups in Libya continue to receive support from external states, undermining international efforts to de-escalate the conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »