Peace Agreement For Libya

Libya’s two predominant rival leaders have consented to a ceasefire, and have also agreed to hold official elections next year, during a diplomatic meeting held by French President, Emmanuel Macron.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and military leader General Khalifa Haftar met in Paris on July 25th for the peace discussions, and were described by Macron as displaying “historic courage,” who asserted that “The cause of peace has made great progress today.” The talks were chaired by UN envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé.

Diplomats praised the talks as a step forward, but asserted that “there is room to manoeuvre here. Neither Haftar nor Serraj can deliver on the ground. It is up to the UN-led process.”

Macron insists that “civil war in Libya is not inevitable”, and claims that peaceful negotiations between the two leaders could become a symbol of a national reconciliation. Yet Macron’s initiative in organizing the meeting has caused tension between France and Italy, with Italy usually conducting a mediating role in its former colony, and supporting UN backed Sarraj. Italy disapproved of the discussions, and claimed they legitimized Haftar.

Libya was liberated from Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 in a NATO-backed uprising. The various forces that united in the rebellion, however, have been struggling against each other for power since. In 2014 the country held elections, which were then disputed, causing the outbreak of a civil war. The UN attempted to unite the country under Prime Minister Serraj, after a political agreement was conducted in 2015. This had little effect, however, with Serraj lacking support from the various militant groups, and struggling to control even the capital city of Tripoli.

Haftar is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and the bulk of the French military, but has been accused of human rights violations, which are linked to publicized videos of mass beheadings, and he has shown a tendency to authoritarian style leadership. His forces hold two-thirds of the country, mostly in the east, and are predominantly occupied in battles against an alliance of Islamist militant forces and ex-rebels in Benghazi (a major oil port) and Derma.

The general has publicized plans to capture Tripoli by the end of the year. “I do not care about elections,” he also told France24 Arabic immediately after the deal, “I care about the future of Libya as a stable and civil state,” he added. These comments have created much speculation about the chance of legitimate elections being held, though some still argue that Haftar’s involvement in peace discussions means that he is willing to compromise.

The peace commits the leaders to a ceasefire, as well as to “building the rule of law” and the eventual “disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration” of military groups within the country. However, the ceasefire only applies to battles directly between Sarraj and Haftar, of which there are few. “Militias who are with Sarraj will agree on the ceasefire, but there will be clashes with the militias who are not considered legitimate,” said civil rights activist Hana El-Gallal.

One militant group, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party, who vehemently oppose Haftar, have already rejected the agreement, saying that it will only adhere to deals administered by the UN, not the French government.

The agreement also allows the leaders to continue to attack terrorist organizations and groups. “Haftar has the tendency to call anyone who opposes him a terrorist,” said Geoff Porter at North Africa Risk Consulting, adding,  “This leaves a lot of people outside the parameters of the ceasefire.”

Since Gaddafi was overthrown, numerous peace deals have been attempted, but all have failed so far. The international community must hope that these negotiations will be more successful.

Eleanor Goodbourn