So far, the nationwide ceasefire agreed to by the conflict parties on Friday is holding. The UN can chalk up a success.
Negotiators last week in Geneva Photo: reuters
A nationwide ceasefire has been observed in Libya, signed in Geneva under the auspices of the UN. Negotiators from Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and the unity government in Tripoli under Fajis al-Saraj had wrapped up the local non-aggression agreements, which had previously been agreed only verbally, into a comprehensive package on Friday.
Stephanie Williams, head of the U.N. Mission for Libya (UNSMIL), called it a "historic" agreement for Libya. Foreign mercenaries must now leave within three months, the diplomat said. Libyan military units are to withdraw to barracks. According to the agreement, all armed groups are to be placed under one command.
While the majority of the population welcomed the ceasefire with relief, allies of the warring parties reacted cautiously. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed skepticism that the agreement would be honored. He criticized Friday that the cease-fire had not been agreed upon by the highest authorities. Turkey has sent several thousand Syrian mercenaries and military advisers to Libya, forcing the withdrawal of Haftar’s army from Tripoli.
Turkish military personnel have also recently been training the Libyan coast guard and air force. In return, the Libyan unity government has signed extensive economic agreements with Turkey. Most recently, the reconstruction of Tripoli’s international airport was awarded to a Turkish construction consortium.
The main deterrent against the Western Libyan units, which have been upgraded with Turkish aid, are a dozen Russian Mig-29 fighter jets stationed at the military airport in Jufra, central Libya. Haftar’s LNA still controls most of the oil fields and thus the state’s main source of revenue. Mercenaries from the private Russian security firm Wagner and hired Sudanese rebels fighting on Haftar’s side have been able to prevent a planned Turkish offensive on the oil fields.
Agreement remains vague
The head of Haftar’s delegation in Geneva, Mohammed Alamami, called Friday’s agreement an important step toward lasting peace in Libya. A spokesman for EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borrell said the agreement was key to resuming the political peace process. This was a precondition for the promised financial aid and for further EU involvement in Libya.
However, the Geneva agreement remains vague on many points, such as the demilitarization of the city of Sirte and the oil fields demanded by Tripoli. Haftar’s officers want to allow only joint patrols in central Libya.
Under the agreement, training of Libyan military personnel by foreign advisers must also end. "Will the Turkish and Russian militaries just pull out, voluntarily giving up control of Africa’s most oil-rich region?" Benghazi political analyst Wail al-Uscheibi asks the taz, "I doubt it."
With the cease-fire, Williams, who is only acting as interim UNSMIL chief, has succeeded in putting the political transition process back in the hands of the UN. Al-Uscheibi hopes that the decisions of the Berlin Libya Conference in January will now be implemented. Starting Nov. 9, talks will be held in Tunis on the creation of an all-Libyan government and on a possible new election. "Many militias will take every opportunity to torpedo the political process," al-Ushaibi warns.