The first round of peace talks between representatives of Libya’s internationally-recognized government, and the military commander Khalifa Haftar, came to an unsuccessful conclusion on the 9th of February. The talks, facilitated by the United Nations and held in the Swiss city of Geneva, had been organized as part of an international drive to end the ongoing conflict in Libya. In recent months, the ongoing Libyan Civil War has seen renewed fighting as Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive against the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in April of 2019.
It seems highly likely that ongoing foreign interference is exacerbating the conflict, contributing to the failure of these peace talks. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, expressed his concern about foreign intervention. “With regards to Libya, it is evident that the crisis has been severely aggravated by the presence of forces and equipment from many other countries, in clear violation of the mandate of the Security Council,” Guterres told reporters. “I think we have to re-establish the sovereignty of international law and the conditions in which the decisions of the Security Council could be implemented and that countries should understand that their engagements to promote certain conflicts only increases the potential for action by terrorist groups.”
Last week’s talks in Geneva represent a small part of the increased international efforts to end the war. Aside from the diplomatic discussions, the two sides involved continue to receive support from foreign powers. Haftar’s LNA has seen support from France, Egypt, the U.A.E., and Russia, while Turkey is the main supporter of the UN-recognized GNA. Last month, world powers met in Berlin and committed to ending foreign interference in the country. Participants also agreed to uphold a weapons embargo, in order to bring about a quicker end to the war. However, it appears the terms of the embargo are being ignored. UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame stated that these weapons, ammunition, and foreign fighters continue to enter the nation, supporting both sides.
While this first round of peace talks has failed, there remains the potential for ongoing discussion. Earlier in the week, Ghassan Salame had noted that there was progress being made in the talks which could turn a truce into a more permanent ceasefire. While this obviously failed to pan out, it indicates that the GNA and LNA are interested in reaching some form of deal. The two parties agree that arrangements need to be made soon in order to ensure internally displaced peoples can return to their homes, ideally in a conflict-free nation. Unfortunately, at this point, there are some fundamental differences in political positions which have prevented a compromise from being reached. The GNA would like Haftar and his forces to pull back to the pre-April 2019 status quo. This would thus see the LNA lose all gains made over the previous year, rendering their fighting (and casualties) pointless. It is understandable why the LNA would not agree to such a deal. If talks continue in the near future, perhaps both sides can come to a better agreement, one which keeps civilians in mind and attempts to ensure the embattled nation can receive the peace it so deserves.