What's In Blue

Posted Wed 26 Feb 2020

Libya: Consultations on the Follow-Up to the Berlin Conference

This afternoon (26 February), Security Council members are scheduled to meet in consultations on Libya. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Special Representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Salamé are expected to brief. Germany and the UK requested the meeting.


On 19 January, high-level representatives from Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the Republic of the Congo, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the US and high-level representatives of the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the League of Arab States adopted conclusions at the Berlin Conference on Libya on six areas (“baskets”) related to the conflict in the country. In July 2019, Salamé had proposed three steps to end the conflict: a truce, a high-level conference of “concerned countries”, and a “Libyan meeting of leading and influential personalities from all over the country”. The Berlin Conference represented the second of Salamé’s three steps.

With the conference conclusions, the participants committed to refraining from “interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya” and urged all international actors to do the same. In this respect, the proxy dimension of the Libyan conflict has been notable, including for its breach of UN sanctions. Reportedly, Turkey and Qatar support the Tripoli-based internationally recognised and UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) militarily while Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provide military support to the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar. Different Chadian and Sudanese armed groups support both sides. In addition, according to Libyan and US officials, mercenaries of the private but reportedly Kremlin-affiliated Russian military company Wagner Group are also involved on the ground in support of the LNA. The Berlin conclusions further called upon the United Nations “to facilitate ceasefire negotiations between the parties, including through the immediate establishment of technical committees to monitor and verify the implementation of the ceasefire”. They also called on the Council to impose “appropriate sanctions on those who are found to be in violation of the ceasefire arrangements”, and called “on Member States to enforce these”. Participants committed themselves “to unequivocally and fully respect and implement the arms embargo” established by the Council, and called “on all international actors to do the same”.

The participants at Berlin agreed to establish an International Follow-Up Committee on Libya (IFCL) to coordinate efforts to implement the conclusions. Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the GNA, and Haftar were both in Berlin but not formally a part of the conference. Shortly before the conference, forces allied with the LNA effectively shut down nearly all of Libya’s oil fields and terminals, leading to massive revenue loss for the Libyan state. The oil fields and terminals remain blocked.

On 12 February, the Council adopted resolution 2510, endorsing the conclusions of the Berlin Conference with fourteen votes in favour and Russia abstaining.

Today’s Consultations

Maas is expected to update Council members on the work of the IFCL. Consisting of all parties of the Berlin format, it held its first meeting at ministerial level on 16 February in Munich and was co-chaired by Germany and the UN. According to a co-chair’s statement on the launching of the IFCL, it will meet on a regular basis under rotating co-chairmanship. In addition to Germany, the permanent members of the Council and Tunisia are also participants in the Berlin format, and consequently, they may share their impressions, at today’s consultations, of the IFCL’s first meeting and the prospects for its work in the future.

Salamé is expected to talk about UNSMIL’s work on the six baskets, which had started before the Berlin Conference. The six baskets are: political; economic and financial; security; arms embargo; international humanitarian law; and international human rights law matters.

He may give an update on the recent activities of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (part of the “security” basket). Al-Sarraj and Haftar have each nominated five representatives for the commission. In resolution 2510, the Council called for the 5+5 commission’s meetings to continue with the goal of agreeing to a permanent ceasefire. The first round of talks of the 5+5 commission started on 3 February in Geneva, with Salamé conducting shuttle diplomacy between the two parties. The second round started on 18 February. The day after, the GNA announced it was suspending its participation in the talks, following an LNA attack on Tripoli’s port. The talks continued with the participation of both parties and the second round concluded, however. According to UNSMIL, the conflict parties have agreed on a draft ceasefire agreement and will present it “to their respective leaderships for further consultations”; they have also agreed “to meet again next month to resume the discussions”.

Regarding the political basket, the first meeting of the “Political Dialogue Forum” was anticipated today. According to UNSMIL’s operationalisation paper on the Berlin process, the Political Dialogue Forum is “comprised of 40 representative Libyans who shall be selected following consultations with major constituencies” and “shall convene in order to discuss the possibility of reforming the Presidency Council” as well as “designating a new Prime Minister and two Deputy Prime Ministers who shall be charged with forming a government”. Ahead of the meeting, some members threatened to pull out of the talks. Members may be interested in any updates that Salamé is able to share with them about this meeting.

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