Give Peace a Chance in Libya

The Mid East Security Council of the Next Century Foundation has been discussing Libya. Those involved are both encouraged by recent developments, and concerned that foreign players may seek to undermine the latest tentative steps toward peace, if merely because Libya represents an opportunity for financial gain and / or hegemonic advantage.

Given recent Libyan peace talks under the auspices of the Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) questions are being asked as to how the recent victory of President-elect Joe Biden would affect Libya.

The LPDF

The LPDF has proven successful thus far in bringing together the different sides in Libya’s civil conflict. The Next Century Foundation views the LPDF as a positive step forward breathing new life into Libya’s stalled political process. Some in the East of the country, however, are less optimistic stating that although the LPDF is a great start, they fear that this may result in an outcome similar to that of the Skhirat agreement (Morocco 2015) and so might fail. However, the level of support from the East with regard to the LPDF is much stronger than that which was present in the Skhirat agreement and so there was a higher chance of success.

The fact that the LPDF has already suggested a date for new national elections and both Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the House of Representatives (the unicameral parliament of Libya with c. 127 members resulting from the 2014 Libyan parliamentary election) agree with it is a good sign for things to come. NCF Sources in the Libyan electoral commission also agreed that the funding provided by the government to initiate the elections was a good sign that the parties involved were eager to make the LPDF work. That said, General Haftar may not be as likely to accept the LPDF talks or the results of the new elections. However, he may have no choice in the matter, especially with his recent defeats in Tripoli and a shift in policy from regional powers (likely due to the election of Joseph Biden).

This progress is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Libya still has no constitution. Meaning that although these elections would be giving new legitimacy to the government, the government still has no roadmap to decide what and where its powers are. Also, Libya’s Berber community are quick to point out that without a constitution, many minority groups would not have adequate protection or representation in the new government.

The Biden Victory

President-elect Joseph Biden’s victory will likely have a positive impact on Libya. A Biden presidency will likely want to continue the work of the Obama administration. The appointment of Antony Blinken as the next US Secretary of State is a good sign. The US under Biden would likely want to bring its NATO allies back into line, especially in Libya. Under a Biden presidency, the US will be concerned about growing Russian influence in the Mediterranean. All the more so in view of the fact the US house of representatives passed the Libya stabilisation act with bi-partisan support. The act reaffirms US commitment to democracy and stability in Libya, and emphasizes the need for the prevention of foreign interference, specifically that by the Russians.

Russian interference has been growing in years following the 2016 US elections. Not just in Libya but also in Syria and Eastern Europe. And in the absence of a strong US leadership, Russian influence in Libya has actually been promoted by NATO member states, especially France. This has caused hostility between France on one side and Turkey and Italy on the other (all three of whom are NATO members). However, with the recent Biden victory, many nations, including France and Turkey, have started to become more cautious about how they conduct their foreign policy.

Interestingly this approach by France was not just in contravention of NATO policy; it also contravenes European Union policy. There needs to be a strong, cohesive approach regarding Libya. If the current approach continues then the region could become even more unstable.

The Outcome

The recent LPDF talks are definitely something that brings hope for stability in the country. Furthermore, the recent gathering of HOR members in Ghadames, creating a quorum for the first time in years, is definitely a good sign. We must be cautious, though, as Libya has been through this before and shown progress, only to have that progress wiped out in the last minute.

With that said, the mood of the recent NCF meeting was definitely one of hopeful optimism. Participants agreed that given all that is currently going on with regard to Libya, there is definitely a recent push, domestically and internationally, to revive the peace process and establish stability in the country.

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