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EU outlines need for Libya-owned political process at Berlin Conference

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu attend the Berlin Conference on Libyan peace in Berlin, Germany on January 19, 2020. [Turkish Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Anadolu Agency]
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu attend the Berlin Conference on Libyan peace in Berlin, Germany on January 19, 2020. [Turkish Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Anadolu Agency]

The European Union (EU) has stressed the need for a political process, led and owned by Libya itself, at the Berlin conference yesterday.

In a joint statement, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced: “As the European Union, we reaffirm that the only sustainable solution to the crisis in Libya is through UN-led mediation efforts that put the needs of all Libyan people at the forefront. Only a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process can end the conflict and bring lasting peace.”

The conference on resolving the Libyan conflict, held in the German capital of Berlin yesterday, “brought together the most influential regional and international partners at this critical moment in the Libyan crisis,” including representatives from the UN, US, Russia, Turkey, France, Germany, Egypt and other nations.

The participants talked about a number of issues regarding the conflict, in which international powers have been involved, and proposed a range of resolutions and commitments, such as an end to foreign interference, by committing to “refraining from interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya.”

Libya peace summit struggles to draw eastern commander Haftar back into diplomacy

Another agreement they came to was to “unequivocally and fully respect and implement the arms embargo” implemented by the UN in 2011, while calling on “all actors to refrain from any activities exacerbating the conflict… including the financing of military capabilities or the recruitment of mercenaries.” Any country breaching the arms embargo is also to be subjected to the enforcement of sanctions, by the UN Security Council.

The other commitments consisted of human rights, the dismantling of armed groups and militias, the return to a political and diplomatic process, and particularly the ceasefire between the rival groups of the Libyan conflict – the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) of warlord Khalifa Haftar. The ceasefire has been violated numerous times, especially by Haftar’s forces, who have led a campaign to capture Tripoli since April of last year, and currently lay on the outskirts of the city. Efforts to establish a ceasefire were reignited over a week ago, when both sides travelled to Russia’s capital Moscow to hold talks, but the process broke down and failed.

Much speculation emerged, however, when Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left the conference earlier than expected, allegedly refusing to attend the dinner following the end of the conference. According to German news agency, DPA International, Erdogan did not leave prematurely, and only left after the necessary talks were concluded, but chose not to stay for the dinner.

Why Haftar refused to sign the Moscow ceasefire document

The Turkish president has long been frustrated with the EU for its lack of support of Turkey’s efforts to back the GNA and repel Haftar’s forces, leading many to believe that he left due to the EU’s vagueness of its stance on the Libyan conflict, and the lack of a clear condemnation of Haftar.

Since the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been subjected to two rival governments or factions within the country: the GNA, which controls most of the west including the key city of Tripoli, and the LNA, which controls the east and is led by formerly-exiled field marshal, Haftar. Throughout the ongoing Libyan civil war, Turkey – along with the UN – has backed and militarily assisted the GNA, against Haftar’s forces.

Turkey’s support for the government has led it to take wider steps in recent months, to increase ties and military support for the GNA, by signing pacts on military cooperation and maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, at the end of November. As part of these relations, Turkey offered direct military support last month, in order to push back Haftar’s advance, which the GNA accepted and called for. As a result, Turkey has sent approximately 2,000 fighters from Syria to repel Haftar, along with a small contingent of Turkish officers and advisors, to train and advise GNA forces.

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