Following the G7 summit and statements of UN special envoy Ghassan Salame, major international actors were expected to come together to end the protracted civil war and initiate a new peace process in Libya. The 74th Assembly of the United Nations was the perfect venue to agree on the framework of a new peace process. Libya discussions, however, were overshadowed by other priorities of the world leaders or demonstrated the division among the international actors. While, Fayez Al-Serraj as the internationally recognized Prime Minister of Libya, enjoyed the privilege of voicing his point of view to the delegates of General Assembly, the arguments of the head of Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, were advocated by his friend, Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. For short, rather than contributing to the solution of the crisis, last week’s UNGA verified the difficulty of reaching an international consensus on Libya during the upcoming Germany conference.
Taking over from Italy and France, neutral mediator Germany assumed a significant role for solving the crisis. Stopping the arms shipment / military assistance from regional backers of fighting factions of Libya is an achievable goal for the conference, which will be held in late October or November 2019. The second and more challenging goal could be the establishment of a unified and common international approach to Libya Conflict. In the light of uncompromising attitudes and distrust of fighting Libyan factions, the sole remedy seems like a compromise among their regional and international backers. The failure of Haftar, in the last six months, in his offensive on Tripoli will probably be the incentive of a compromise among backers. Seeing the developments, Haftar, who was rebuffing the peace calls until last week, awkwardly indicated his openness to negotiations.
One another task for the mediators of the Germany conference should be rescuing the GNA camp from falling under the mandate of Turkey. Currently, the champion of political Islam, Turkey, has the leading role in backing GNA in its war. If the GNA continues to be forced to be dependent on Turkish military and political support, eventually, moderate groups within GNA will lose ground in the capital of Libya.
On the other hand, with the fear of losing his reputation and support, Haftar is exigently struggling to achieve significant progress before the conference. This week, news portals reported that around 100 Russian mercenaries deployed to Libya and it is also said that Al-Wattiyah Airbase assigned to Russian aircraft to support the LNA attacks to Tripoli, Misrata and Sirte. It is also reported that some of these mercenaries already were killed in action. Additionally, news over Russian involvement coincided with increasing aircraft attacks on GNA groups in the last week. The participation of new forces is highly likely a part of Haftar’s attempts related to the upcoming Germany conference.
Lastly, it is vital to notice the increasing US airstrikes to ISIS targets in Southern Libya. AFRICOM, ten months later, conducted three airstrikes in one week. In these airstrikes, around 22 people killed. Due to the current power vacuum and new grievances between Tobu and Arab tribes, tribal conflicts are another reason for mobilization in Southern Libya. Increased AFRICOM airstrikes could cause collateral damage among southern tribes, which was the case in some previous US strikes.
* Erman Atak is Non-resident Analyst at Beyond the Horizon ISSG.