Rival sides met Wednesday in Geneva for the first meeting of the political track in the UN-sponsored peace process. However, just hours later, the Tripoli-based High Council of State, part of the GNA, sent a letter to the UN demanding to suspend the talks until “concrete progress is made” in the parallel military track. The UN is also hosting a third economic track that has already met a few times.
At the same time, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which backs the LNA, also requested to postpone the talks.
It was not clear if the talks would begin at all, as representatives from either side objected to the “last minute inclusion” of independent politicians as a part of the Tripoli delegation. “We stress our agreement to choosing the group of additional representatives...to ensure it represents a cross section of Libyan society,” said the High Council of State letter. The Tobruk HoR said it was suspending its participation due to the UN’s failure to respond to its questions and concerns regarding the independent participants, dialogue process and duration.
UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, updating the UN Security Council later, said the Tobruk delegation did not arrive, and urged member states to pressure the delegation to attend the talks.
Earlier this week, in the military track dialogue, representatives managed to agree on a draft for a cease-fire deal which they took to their political leaderships to review. The draft discusses returning thousands of displaced civilians to their homes in Tripoli, but falls short of dealing with more contentious issues such as pulling back LNA forces out of Tripoli or disbanding GNA militias.
Peace talks continue slowly despite ongoing low-intensity clashes and continued flow of arms and fighters into Libya; despite that the regional and international powers pledged to end this in Berlin in late January.
The second round of the 5+5 military talks concluded earlier this week (Feb 23) in Geneva as the UN continues to push the warring Libyan sides together to cement a ceasefire. The talks were facilitated by UN Special Representative to Libya Ghassan Salame.
The JMC, or Joint Military Commission is one of three tracks set by the UN in Berlin and brings together 5 senior military representatives from the GNA and LNA, respectively. This is taking place alongside an economic and political track, the latter of which is scheduled to open today, although it is unclear if the sides will participate given objections voiced just yesterday.
In a statement released after the conclusion of the meeting, UNSMIL thanked the parties for their "seriousness of purpose, goodwill, and spirit of high professionalism."
It announced that the two parties prepared a draft ceasefire agreement to help facilitate the safe return of civilians to areas from which they fled and to implement a joint monitoring mechanism that will be verified by UNSMIL and the newly comprised JMC.
The parties will present the draft to their respective political leaderships and resume negotiations in March, to complete the preparation of the Terms of Reference of the sub-committees in charge of implementing the agreement.
Representatives from the two sides of the Libya conflict announced they were suspending their participation in the political dialogue that was set to take place in Geneva tomorrow. This is, despite assurances by the UN that the talks will take place as scheduled.
The eastern-based LNA representative said his side was withdrawing due to the UN approving only 8 of the 13 names proposed for the delegation to Geneva . The Tripoli-based GNA spokesman said it would not take part in political talks until progress was made on the military negotiations. A senior GNA official said his side would "not be bound by the outcome of the political talks if they went ahead 'before knowing the military dialogue's conclusions' ".
The announcement took place just hours after UNSMIL released a statement saying senior military figures from both sides agreed to put forth a draft ceasefire agreement to their sides before they meet again in March.
The UN process is intended to bring together lawmakers from Tripoli and Tobruk to end the fighting in Tripoli as a part of a wider process that includes political, economic and military tracks. UNSMIL said the political talks would take place as scheduled, February 26. They added that many of the intended participants have arrived and they hope all will "follow suit".
Just days after Fayez al-Sarraj pulled out of the ceasefire talks, the UN says the GNA will resume the talks. Earlier this week, the GNA announced it was pulling out of the second round of the 5+5 ceasefire talks being held in Geneva, due to the LNA's most recent and egregious escalation. Haftar-linked forces launched a missile barrage at the port of Tripoli. The LNA said it was targeting ammunition depots and a Turkish shipment of arms intended for the GNA.
A spokesperson for UNSMIL informed that talks would be underway again with the GNA agreeing to return. The first phase of the ceasefire talks did not lead to a clear result, but the UN Envoy to Libya said the talks left him with "more hope". The cease fire talks are taking place in parallel to economic talks, intended to result in a more fair distribution of oil wealth, and political talks, held in Egypt and Tunisia. The next round is schedule for Geneva on February 26.
Haftar, on a recent visit to Moscow, told reporters he would accept a cease fire if the Turkish-Syrian mercenaries left Libya, if Turkey ceased supplying arms to the GNA and all the "terror groups" (militias) in Tripoli were disbanded.
As the second round of the UN-backed 5+5 ceasefire talks were set to begin in Geneva today, the Tripoli-based GNA announced it was suspending its participation over the LNA's air strike on the port of Tripoli yesterday (Feb 18). "We are announcing the suspension of our participation in the military talks taking place in Geneva until firm positions are adopted against the aggressor and his violations" of the ceasefire, said a GNA press release, adding that "without a lasting ceasefire... negotiations make no sense. "
Video footage of thick black smoke rising from the area of the port spread on social media. The LNA said it had attacked a Turkish ship carrying military equipment, while the GNA maintained that Haftar was attacking the port in violation of the ceasefire. Turkish officials said there were no Turkish vessels in the area.
The National Oil Corporation said it had evacuated its tankers from the area after a missile struck just metres away "from a highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas tanker" nearby. NOC Chairman Mustaffa Sanalla added that "the city does not have operational fuel storage facilities" and that this attack will have immediate and negative consequences to vital infrastructure nearby.
The previous 5+5 ceasefire talks in Geneva just a week ago led to a "broad consensus" between the warring parties on "the urgency for Libyans to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity" and stop the influx of foreign fighters into the country.
UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame described the attack as a "big breach" of the already shaky and violated ceasefire brokered on January 12 by Turkish president Erdogan and Russian president Putin ahead of the Berlin talks. The UNSC resolution backed the ceasefire and embargo and the progress made at the first round led Salame to say there was "more hope" heading into the continuation of the talks.
Residents near the port expressed their concern that heavy fighting may renew, after a few week period of a lull, and that the airstrike on the port could signal the beginning of a new phase of escalation.
The EU naval and air operation to help enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya kicked off, just a week after the member states agreed to form this operation in Munich.
The initiative has been in the works for weeks, but saw significant opposition from Italy, Austria and Hungary, concerned the ships would be a "pull factor" for migrants, who would seek to get "rescued" in order to reach Europe. The workaround involves positioning the ships in lanes further away from Tripoli and where there is little migrant activity. However, EU foreign policy head Borrell added they would stop the mission if this began to draw migrants.
The EU previously maintained a Libya operation Sophia, in order to combat human trafficking. This however, is no longer active.
Expert Jalel Harchaoui suggests this is unlikely to have much effect, which is perhaps why Turkey has not condemned it too vocally.
The European Union announced it will deploy naval vessels in order to enforce the arms embargo on Libya, in a sign that Europe seeks an enhanced role in the ongoing conflict. At a meeting Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed to launch a range of capabilities, including aerial, spacial and maritime ones, in order to monitor and enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya.
According to Bloomberg, talks over the initiative stalled due to a fear among some member states that African migrants making their way from Libya to Europe would take advantage of the EU presence at sea to purposefully get rescued, forcing the vessels to bring them to EU ports. A previous EU naval operation, Sophia, was scrapped due to the concerns of certain EU states that migrants were using such tactics. However, those hesitant states, such as Austria and Italy, said they were comfortable with the new mission, whose focus will be the arms embargo, and will place "clear safeguards against misuse by human traffickers", according to Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg.
EU foreign policy head Josep Borrel, when asked how the naval force would respond to Russian, Turkish or other efforts to break the embargo, noted "they won't be there for a promenade". Borrel went on to say that the EU wishes to launch the operation by the end of March.
The initiative and deployment would be a major test to gauge the EU's ambition to return to global affairs, as foreign and regional powers become increasingly entangled and invested in Europe's immediate neighbour to the south.
foreign ministers meet again in germany to discuss libyan ceasefire efforts; embargo called a 'joke'
The foreign ministers and other senior officials from over 10 countries met in Germany on Sunday to address the ongoing fighting in Libya and reaffirm their support and commitment to a ceasefire and arms embargo, which few have actually upheld.
The embargo was described by one senior UN official as a "joke", that must be upheld. Deputy UN Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams, went on to note that "we all really need to step up here... its complicated because there are violations by land, sea and air, but it needs to be monitored and there needs to be accountability."
Germany, who hosted the Berlin conference in January, together with the UN, gathered this new meeting to pressure the various foreign powers involved in Libya to cease their military interventions. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quoted as saying "It has been obvious in the last weeks there have been many not insignificant breaches of the weapons embargo." Despite the various explanations for the breaches, "everybody agrees that the path we have taken, which is to separate the conflicting parties from their supporters is still the only path to a possible successful outcome...in Libya."
Despite the best efforts of the UN, Germany and others, Al-Jazeera reports from Tripoli that sporadic fighting has continued, even though the sides agreed to a truce, and that the main issues of enforcing the arms embargo and the ceasefire have not been implemented.
Since the January peace conference in Berlin, the warring sides have met twice in Geneva to broker a ceasefire, and in Cairo to discuss economic matters. The UN Security Council passed a decision regarding foreign intervention in Libya, and signed off on a 55 point road map to end the war. The EU is reportedly discussing the idea of sending naval reinforcement to uphold the arms embargo.
After weeks of behind-the-scenes efforts, the UN Security Council passed (Feb 12) a resolution intended to bring a halt to fighting in Libya. UNSC 2510 demands the rival parties "commit to a lasting ceasefire", according to terms set by the military representatives (from the 5+5 dialogue) who met in Geneva last week.
The draft was put forth by the UK and received the backing of 14 Council members. Russia abstained.
The resolution restated its support for UNSMIL and UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame. It further stressed the international community's commitment to push for a lasting ceasefire, which the member countries gave at the Berlin Conference in January 2020. It also recognised the critical role the African Union and League of Arab States can play to end the conflict.
2510 expressed "grave concern" over the involvement of terrorist groups and the "growing involvement of mercenaries in Libya, despite the promises in Berlin, despite assurances to support and abide by the arms embargo, “including by ceasing all support for and withdrawing all armed mercenary personnel, and demands all Member States not to intervene in the conflict”.
Lastly, the resolution drew attention at the "deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya", poor living standards, lack of basic services and especially regarding the challenges and threats to migrants and refugees.
The UN-led Libyan economic dialogue, one of 3 tracks launched by the UN to help reach a ceasefire and political agreement, kicked off in Cairo earlier this week. The framework was recommended during the Berlin conference, and brought together representatives from 21 financial and banking institutions to discuss uniting sovereign economic intuitions, oil revenue distribution and the management of state resources.
The meeting took place as the first Geneva 5+5 meeting regarding the ceasefire ended without an agreement but with the sides agreeing to return to Geneva on February 18 for further talks.
On the second day of the meetings, the forum discussed establishing a Libyan Economic Experts Commission. The Cairo meeting led to an agreement whereby the commission would work with international organisations to ensure Libyan sovereignty regarding national economic institutions, assets and resources.
Some of the challenges discussed included facilitating banking transactions between the two sides of Libya, uniting competing economic institutions, battling corruption and instituting mechanisms to distribute wealth evenly, as well as reconstruction efforts.
This was the second round of economic talks, after the first was held in January in Tunisia. The political track dialogue group is set to meet on February 26.