The Libyan negotiating parties at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), represented by the 5+5 Joint Military Committee (JMC), reached an agreement on a permanent ceasefire throughout Libya on 23 October 2020, at the end of a months-long negotiation process that led to establishing rules for a political consensus to manage a transitional phase leading to a new constitution for the country and the organisation of legislative and presidential elections to end the severe internal crisis that erupted six years ago.
This paper reviews the background of the new agreement and discusses its impact on the future of the Libyan internal situation.
Backgrounds of the Geneva deal
An agreement was concluded in Berlin on 19 January 2020 between the Libyan factions, with an expanded international presence that included the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), representatives of African, Arab and international organisations, and some geographically neighbouring countries interested in the Libyan situation. In its Resolution 2510, the UNSC approved the outcomes of the Berlin Conference which focused on a ceasefire between the Libyan belligerents, and the initiation of political negotiations to conduct the next transitional phase and prepare for a permanent political solution in Libya. After starting in Berlin, the negotiation track faltered and was not vigorously renewed except as a result of the new military equation generated by the control by the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli over most of western Libya (May 2020).
Thus, three distinct negotiating tracks emerged, as follows:
Thus, for the first time since the Skhirat Agreement (2015), a glimmer of hope appeared for the political settlement of the internal Libyan conflict. This explains the warm reception of the results of the agreement signed in Geneva by the regional and international parties concerned with the Libyan issue, except for the Turkish side which questioned the firmness of the agreement and the credibility of withdrawing the mercenaries from the country.
Prospects for the Libyan political scene
The current Libyan political equation can be summarised in the following four observations:
These facts will have an impact on the future of the Libyan political dialogue that began virtually under the auspices of the UN in Tunisia (via video conferencing) on 26 October 2020, provided that the first face-to-face meeting between the Libyan parties would be held on 9 November 2020. The Libyan political dialogue is expected to take place in the Tunisian city of Djerba, with the participation of 13 representatives of the two main Libyan parties (the LHR and the HCS), in addition to more than 70 Libyan personalities chosen by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), provided that the participants will not subsequently assume any leadership political responsibilities in the transitional phase. The Djerba meetings are required to agree on the Chairperson of the Presidential Council (PC) and two deputies thereof (provided that the Chairpersons’s job would be separate from the premiership), appointing a Prime Minister and two deputies thereof, and naming the officials responsible for the major sovereign functions, provided that the transitional government would take over the management of the next phase, including writing a new constitution for the country, and organising free and fair presidential and legislative elections that would restore Libya to the normal constitutional status.
However, this consensual framework suffers from many gaps, and faces various practical difficulties, the most prominent of which are the following:
Despite those difficulties, the regional and international pressures seem likely to ensure a minimum level of agreement between the Libyan factions in the following directions:
This likely scenario may suffer a severe setback in two cases:
The first is the inability of the transitional authorities and the international powers sponsoring the negotiation process to solve the dilemma of disarming the Libyan militias and foreign military groups (mercenaries), which could take the country back to the cycle of violence and armed conflict.
The second is the disruption of the political dialogue process, leading to the paralysis of the transitional institutions, such as those emanating from the Skhirat Agreement, which could lead to the collapse of the fragile political consensus process.
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