The Libyan ceasefire negotiated in Geneva has renewed hopes for a settlement in the entire Sahel region. New talks are to begin in Tunis in November. The success of the agreement lies in its implementation.
Paris (Brussels Morning) Rival Libyan factions have signed an agreement on permanent ceasefire in Geneva under the auspices of UNSMIL, the UN mission in the country. Following week-long negotiations under UN mediation, the deal was reached within the Joint 5+5 Military Committee, consisting of five senior military officials from each side; the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, which is based in the capital Tripoli, and the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar, based in and around Benghazi, in the country’s east.
The agreement stipulates that both sides will evacuate their fighters from frontline positions, while foreign mercenaries are ordered to leave the country within three months from the signing date.
According to reporting by the Libya Observer, the Libyan rivals stressed the country’s unity and sovereignty and agreed that decisions of state should not be “dictated” by foreign powers.
The ceasefire agreement is set to unify security forces and disarm, demobilise and reintegrate the numerous armed factions that have operated unchecked by any central authority for years, The New York Times reports. The two sides will also form a joint military force under unified command to supervise any possible breaches of the ceasefire.
However, this is not the end of the negotiating process for a settlement in Libya. Another crucial deal that needs to be reached is a political agreement during talks that are set to begin in Tunis in November. The political agreement must satisfy both camps, and could play a crucial role in how this latest military agreement is implemented, according to BBC analysis.
Libyan peace means unity
Hailing the agreement, the ,acting High Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Stephanie Turco Williams, said in her remarks that it paves the way for “a better, more secure and peaceful future for all the Libyan people. I salute your sense of responsibility and your commitment to preserve Libya’s unity and to reassert its sovereignty.” However, the UN also admitted that the road ahead will be long and difficult.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the ceasefire and urged the international community to actively support implementation of the deal and to uphold the UN arms embargo, in the breach of which arms were delivered to the warring factions in great numbers.
Referring to the Joint 5+5 Military Committee, UN High Representative Williams was hoped that a precedent had been set, saying: “You have set a high standard and excellent example for your compatriots who are participating in the political and economic tracks. You did your part, and did it very well. They will now need to do theirs.”
The UN envoy added that the ceasefire will allow displaced Libyans to return to their homes, AFP reported. According to the Associated Press, the US State Department welcomed the agreement, calling it “positive news”.
“We understand that this agreement was reached by Libyans alone, on both sides of the conflict, who are taking decisive steps to reassert their sovereignty over Libya,” the US statement added.
The agreement was welcomed by Egypt’s Foreign Minister and by the German Foreign Minister. Spokeswoman for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Agnès von der Mühll noted that it marked “an important step towards a sovereign, stable and united Libya”.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan differed, claiming the agreement did not appear to be credible. However, he did express hope that all parties would respect it. “Time will show how long it lasts,” he stated, according to the AP.
Euronews quoted Mustafa Fetouri, a Libyan academic and award-winning journalist, as being cautiously optimistic that the military accord would translate into a lasting political agreement.
A less optimistic note was sounded by Mohamed Eljarh, co-founder of Libya Outlook, a consultancy based in eastern Libya. AP quoted him as saying: “Even as there has been a formal signing of a ceasefire, that does not at all mean that the armed groups on the ground will respect the terms of deal. As always with Libya, the devil is in the details and the implementation.”
The deal aims to put an end to a conflict that has marred Libya since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. As divisions deepened and several international diplomatic efforts repeatedly failed to bring the two sides into meaningful dialogue, the conflict caused a humanitarian disaster and an economic crisis, not only in the country but also in the Sahel region, driving a flux of refugees towards Europe, as well as people returning to the Sub-Saharan states and the Horn of Africa from having worked in Libya.
Foreign power intervention shaped the conflict during more recent years, with Turkey, Russia and Arab countries, mainly the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, backing rival sides in a proxy confrontation with no easy breakthrough. Russia, Turkey, the UAE and other states were accused by the UN last month of blatantly defying the international arms embargo, as reported by the BBC. The involvement of foreign powers, notably Turkey, also took the form of sending foreign mercenaries, mainly from African countries and more recently from Syria.
Whether the ceasefire agreement will succeed largely depends on the reaction of foreign powers with stakes in Libya and throughout the region. Libya’s economy was brought to the brink as disagreement between the warring sides over exploiting the oil resources resulted in several blocked oil refineries, halting their production and costing the country billions of dollars in lost exports. The warring parties sought control of these crucial facilities, whereas now under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, road and air links should be reopened throughout the country and national control established over the oil refineries and the central bank.
The deal came on the eve of the United Nations’ 75th birthday, giving rise to renewed hope in its mediation role worldwide. The breakthrough in Libya could serve as an example of the type of global ceasefire that UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres aspires to. Former UN Special Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame, who had mediated previous efforts to reach an agreement, tweeted congratulations and a message of support to all the parties involved in the Geneva talks on Libya. Salame stepped down earlier this year, partly in exasperation at the failure of the international community to provide meaningful support for peace efforts in Libya. Mr. Salame has been vocal about his disillusionment with the open foreign meddling in Libya, combined with the failures of Western countries and the UN Security Council to intervene and put a stop to it.