UN-Sponsored Peace Talks In Libya To Encourage Ceasefire

The UN has begun to sponsor peace talks with high-ranking military officials on both sides of the Libyan civil war in hopes of facilitating a sustainable ceasefire and an end to extreme violence in the country, The Guardian has reported a statement from UN special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame.

The UN had been responsible for sponsoring peace talks in 2015 until the Libyan rival parliament suspended said talks due to an alleged surge of “fresh violence” from the country’s currently recognized government, Reuters reports. In a UN reported published on 26 January 2015, peace talks in Geneva set an agenda “aiming to reach a political resolution to form a national unity government” and “make the security arrangements necessary to end the fighting and ensure the withdrawal of armed groups from Libyan cities.” There was also a call to “safeguard Libya’s national unity and end the suffering of the Libyan people.”

The truce that was meant to be formed at these talks has since collapsed, with the number of registered refugees and asylum-seekers peeking 50,000 and internally displaced persons amounting to more than a quarter-million, Global Conflict Tracker reports. In 2015, the UN had reported only 120,000 people having been forcibly displaced from their homes.

Five years later, representatives from Libya’s two warring parties have begun peace talks in Geneva—talks likely to last indefinitely, Al Jazeera reports. The UN has reported that high-ranking officials from both sides have agreed on the need for a “permanent and lasting” ceasefire to replace an “uncertain truce.” The UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar will each have five representatives present at the talks, the UN reported.

“These talks in Geneva are meant to listen carefully to the position of the two sides on what are the conditions for them to accept this translation of the truce into a permanent and lasting ceasefire”, said Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

The 10-member body, known as the “Libya Joint Military Commission,” was created after a 12-nation summit held in Berlin, Germany last month and is tasked with supervising a “tentative truce” and a potential ceasefire, Al Jazeera reports. At the Berlin Conference, held on 19 January 2020, certain members of the international community involved indirectly in the Libyan conflict had agreed not to interfere in Libya’s internal affairs and to abide by the United Nations arms embargo, the UN reports. Though the violence initially subsided after the Berlin Conference—a tentative truce having been agreed upon on both sides of the conflict—further exchanges of artillery fire have since increased in Tripoli, the UN reports.

UN special envoy for Libya, Mr. Salame, speculated that it was the “first time” that high-ranking officials of both sides had met together for talks of peace. However, Salame has warned that, despite a call for a truce in early January, the chance of the situation deteriorating persists, the UN reports. Salame has expressed outrage at the arms embargo of 2011 being broken “incessantly” through evidence of ever-increasing foreign interference.

“We have new evidence of new equipment but also new fighters –  non-Libyan fighters – joining the two camps”, he said. “Therefore, we believe that the arms embargo is being violated by both parties.”

Though the interests of citizens in Libya heavily affected by the proliferating violence should be at the heart of these peace talks, the UN special envoy and other international actors have made it clear another motivation for peace in the unstable country: oil. Despite the enormous oil wealth, persistent conflict and a blockade of key ports in eastern Libya have reduced Libyan oil production to around 72,000 barrels a day; this is down from 1.3 million barrels a day, Mr. Salamé explained in a UN report.

“This is a situation that is not sustainable and I would be grateful if some of the largest countries in the world who have been helping us in solving previous crises in oil production and exports do the same for this particular crisis,” he said.

Overall, it is imperative that the international community, as well as influential officials on both sides of the Libyan conflict, participate amicably in this UN-sponsored peace-talk—the first to exist in nearly five years. Not only is it vital to keep the interests of the Libyan people at the heart of these agreements so that there can be an end to their pain and suffering, but it must also come with cooperation from international actors responsible for proliferating the crisis through means of violating the 2011 arms embargo. The UN has since reported that there are more than 20 million weapons in Libya which have contributed to this spiraling conflict.

Ashley Lamoreaux