On August 21, 2020, the House of Representatives in Tobruk and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli issued separate statements announcing a ceasefire across Libya and called for comprehensive national reconciliation and preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections at the beginning of March 2021. This development has sparked widespread controversy, some seeing it as a paradigm shift that could lead to a comprehensive political settlement, far from the combative approach followed by both parties, while others consider it a tactical move in anticipation of new, more intense rounds of conflict.
Content and conditions of the ceasefire
The two parties to the Libyan conflict have agreed to a ceasefire, the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries, without identifying them, and the resumption of oil production and exportation. The oil revenues are to be frozen in an offshore account of the Central Bank of Libya, guaranteed by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, until inclusive political arrangements have been made. Both parties agreed that the outcomes of the Berlin Conference should form the basis of these arrangements, although legal counsellor Aguila Saleh, Speaker of the House of Representatives, was alone in calling for the inclusion of the Cairo Declaration outcomes.
Nevertheless, differences of opinion remain. The GNA has tied the implementation of the ceasefire to Sirte and Jufra disarming, the police forces of both sides agreeing on their internal security arrangements, and the National Oil Corporation being granted the exclusive remit to produce and export oil and secure Libya’s oilfields and oil terminals.
Meanwhile, Saleh has emphasized that the provisional seat of a new interim government must be Sirte, which must be secured by an official police force from all regions, with a view to unifying State institutions as a basic consensual stage of the peacebuilding process, and that military arrangements must be completed in accordance with the UN‑supervised negotiations of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission.
Drivers of the acceptance of the ceasefire
A combination of factors led the parties to accept the truce. The most important are perhaps the following:
External support for the ceasefire
The ceasefire has received widespread international and regional support, including from the concerned international organizations (the UN, the EU, the Arab League, the African Union, and the Gulf Cooperation Council), and has also been welcomed by all the international and regional powers, including Libya’s neighbors, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Qatar. The suspension of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) Operation Flood of Dignity, led by General Khalifa Haftar, and the GNA’s Operation Peace Storm is deemed a positive step towards achieving a political settlement and restoring stability.
Supporters hope for a speedy conclusion to the negotiations between the LNA and the GNA under the Joint Military Commission in order to reach an official, lasting, and comprehensive agreement on ceasefire arrangements and the lifting of the blockade on oil production and exportation, under the supervision of the UN Support Mission in Libya.
Ceasefire implementation: Possible scenarios
The possible outcomes of the implementation of the ceasefire fluctuate between success and failure, with grounds for each.
Scenario 1: The ceasefire succeeds
The holding of the ceasefire and the advancement of the peaceful settlement process depend on three factors:
Scenario 2: The ceasefire deteriorates and fighting resumes
The ceasefire declaration may be an interim tactic to impose a temporary truce or buy time in order to strengthen alliances, amass weapons, and resume fighting. This scenario depends on five factors:
The second scenario seems the most likely in light of the following considerations:
* Director of the Institute for African Research and Studies, Faculty of Graduate African Studies, Cairo University.
Malik al-Hafez | 13 Sep 2020
Bilal Abdullah | 10 Sep 2020
EPC | 10 Sep 2020