July 28, 2021

a new international summit in Berlin to turn the page on the civil war

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In Tripoli, after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, in November 2011.

Set in stone the holding of elections in Libya at the end of the year and remove foreign troops and mercenaries: the main countries involved in the conflict meet, Wednesday, June 23, in Berlin, for a new summit.

All the players in the region and, for the first time, the Libyan transitional government will take part in this conference in the afternoon at the level of foreign ministers.

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On January 19, 2020, a first conference brought together in the German capital, under the aegis of the United Nations, the leaders of the countries involved, reaching a fragile agreement to end the conflict.

Ten years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, the participants will notably take stock of the political transition in Libya.

Doubts

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is expected to intervene on video. The United States will also be represented by the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on a European tour.

“It is essential for the continued stabilization of the country that the elections take place as planned and that the troops and foreign fighters actually leave Libya”German foreign minister Heiko Maas, host of the meeting, said on Monday.

The main stake will be to ensure the simultaneous holding of the presidential and legislative elections on December 24, which the transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, has promised to organize. However, doubts remain about the real will of the power in place to see this election take place.

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The former Libyan Minister of the Interior Fathi Bachagha, probable candidate for this first presidential election by direct suffrage, thus put on notice, on June 2, the government not to delay their holding.

“The date of the elections is accepted by all”, wants to believe a diplomat, who feared, before being reassured by the preliminary discussions, that the transitional government “Has no interest in his elections”.

The hope that we no longer expected

This Berlin summit may be limited to “Simple declarations of intent”, but it can also allow “Progress” on the way to elections in December, explains to AFP Jalel Harchaoui, specialist in Libya in the think-tank Global Initiative.

After a decade of failures to bring Libya out of chaos, the formation of this new cabinet after a UN-sponsored political process had sounded like hope that was long overdue.

The three traditional provinces of Libya.

The European Union is also relying on the power in place to resolve the problem of migrants leaving the Libyan coast, often on overloaded and unsafe boats, in an attempt to reach Europe.

But the divisions between the two rival powers, in Tripolitania (west) and Cyrenaica (east), have resurfaced in recent weeks.

An official truce has been in effect since October 2020, but UN envoy to Libya Jan Kubis himself acknowledged in May that progress on the unification of divided institutions and the withdrawal of foreign forces was at stake. “Dead point”.

Overarmed men

This parameter is central in this process, the Libyan conflict having been largely fueled by outside powers. “Those who gave the commitment the last time in Berlin to withdraw their troops did not respect it”, deplores Heiko Maas. An implicit reference to Russia, Turkey or the United Arab Emirates.

In December, the UN estimated at some 20,000 the number of mercenaries and foreign fighters in Libya: Russians from the private Wagner group, Chadians, Sudanese and even Syrians.

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Several hundred Turkish soldiers are also present under a bilateral agreement concluded with the previous government in Tripoli. “The number of combatants has not decreased significantly, but we have a ceasefire which is generally accepted and respected everywhere”, says a diplomatic source.

At the end of April, the League of Arab States, the UN, the European Union and the African Union jointly called for a withdrawal of foreign forces.

A brutal dispersion of these overarmed men would, however, represent a new threat to the region, fear UN diplomats. Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno was killed in April during an offensive by Chadian rebels from Libya.

The World with AFP