Berlin Conference: A Step Forward on a Thousand Miles Road
The Berlin conference on the Libyan crisis was held on January 19th. The conference is one in a series of international meetings on Libya, which have taken place in Paris, Palermo, Abu Dhabi and Moscow, where talks were held on January 13th. Although it is not the first conference to address the crisis, it has been the most important so far, due to several considerations.
The conference was distinguished by its degree of representation; it included all parties affected by the crisis, both within the region and internationally. Four international organizations and twelve countries participated in the conference, including the five permanent members of the Security Council. Nine of them were represented by heads of state and government, in a first-of-a-kind precedent. There is no doubt that President Putin’s participation was a key factor that encouraged other leaders to attend, turning the conference into an “international summit” on Libya. This helped facilitate a consensus among the different parties and the convergence of conflicting positions, even within Europe, between France and Italy. Russia’s role will remain central in pushing the settlement in Libya, where bilateral understandings between Russia and Turkey will serve as a cornerstone in ensuring the opposing Libyan parties’ compliance with agreements made in Berlin.
Second, the conference has stopped the escalation of the crisis and prevented it from turning into a full-scale war. Turkey’s move to send troops to support Fayez Serraj, the head of the Government of National Accord, would have prompted Egypt to pursue the same course of action to support the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The Russian ceasefire initiative on January 12th succeeded in defusing this crisis, and the conference supported this approach. One of its most important outcomes was in confirming the necessity of establishing a truce between the warring parties in Libya. The conference served as a message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that both European and international parties would not allow him to threaten their interests. What he did in northern Syria cannot be repeated in Libya.
Third, the conference developed a clear roadmap to peace for the main Libyan powers, and tackled the issue of who has the right to represent the Libyan people. It addressed both Fayez Serraj and Marshal Haftar as the internationally-recognised Libyan forces. Although they did not sit together at the negotiating table during the conference, they were present and negotiated separately on the final statement and the obligations it approves.
Finally, the conference affirms the role of the United Nations in resolving the crisis and stopping any individual initiatives by any country. This includes the Italian proposal to send European forces to monitor the ceasefire. The final statement of the conference is to be presented to the UN Security Council for approval and a binding resolution. This includes a monitoring mechanism for following up on the implementation of the promised commitments, which will start in early February. Also, it launches a direct dialogue between the Libyan parties in three basic respects. It addressed the military aspect through the formation of a committee (5 + 5) comprising of five representatives for each Libyan party, Al-Sarraj’s GNA and Haftar’s LNA. It will discuss the detailed issues related to the ceasefire. The economic aspect will deal with the Libyan Central Bank, the distribution of oil revenues, and the management of oil fields. The third aspect is the political one, the progress of which remains subject to the overall progress of the deal.
The Libyan crisis is one of the most complicated. No single conference can settle all the issues involved. TheBerlin conference did not achieve all the expected results, but it prevented the crisis from worsening. It may also be a step ahead in the long road to a settlement of the Libyan crisis.