17 Jan Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean – An Analysis
The Berlin conference on Libya will be held on Sunday, the 19th January 2020, whereby the head of the internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tripoli, Faiez Serraj, supported by Turkey, and the head of the mainly eastern-based Libyan National Army, Khalifa Hafter, backed by Russia, will attend (https://www.libyaherald.com/2020/01/16/serraj-and-hafter-invited-by-germany-to-19-january-berlin-conference-on-libya/).
The USA, Russia, China, France, UK, Italy, Germany, Turkey, UAE, Republic of Congo, Egypt and Algeria, as well as the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and Arab League, have all been invited.
The aim of the Berlin conference is to secure a collective pledge that external actors will end their interference in Libya by refusing to send troops, arm the militia or fly drones that have caused mass casualties in a war zone centered around Tripoli. In essence, to stop the current civil war and prevent it from escalating further (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/14/libyan-warlord-haftar-leaves-moscow-without-signing-ceasefire-deal).
The two sides had reached an agreement for ceasefire (that was ultimately not effective), which was brokered by Russia and Turkey last weekend, and were in Moscow to sign a long-term agreement on how to police the ceasefire.
However, the head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, signed the cease-fire deal, but Eastern Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar left Moscow, early on Tuesday, 14th January, without signing, asking for more time (https://nation.com.pk/15-Jan-2020/us-turkish-leadership-discuss-libya-deal).
Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/moscow-talks-on-libya-prep-for-berlin-conference/1702996).
Sarraj’s government has been under attack since last April 2019, from Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is based in the east of the oil-rich north African country, with his own loyalist politicians (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/14/libyan-warlord-haftar-leaves-moscow-without-signing-ceasefire-deal).
Russian mercenaries were reportedly fighting alongside Haftar’s troops, and in turn, Turkey, who signed a military cooperation deal with Tripoli in November 2019, have deployed troops to Libya to protect the Tripoli government (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-calls-libya-conference-in-berlin/a-51999875).
According to the UN, more than 1,000 people have been killed and more than 5,000 others injured since Haftar launched his campaign in April 2019 (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/algeria-president-to-attend-berlin-conference-on-libya/1702120).
An important point to note is that Ankara and the internationally recognized government
Libya signed a maritime agreement, in November 2019, which trespasses the jurisdictions of Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt. The EU condemned Turkey’s demarcation memorandum saying: “It infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third states” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2020/01/08/turkey-libya-maritime-deal-upsets-mediterranean-energy-plan/) (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-turkey-reaction/greece-israel-and-cyprus-call-turkeys-planned-libya-deployment-dangerous-escalation-idUSKBN1Z20CI).
However, Greece was not invited to Sunday’s Berlin conference, and Turkey will attend it. The German Deputy Government Spokesman, Ulrike Demmer, said that the reasons why Greece has not been invited “cannot be made public”.
It should be noted that although the Berlin conference is a good step, it is debatable how much influence Berlin has in all this, as it has been trying to mediate between the members of the international community but has no direct military involvement in Libya and there is no direct cooperation with either of the warring parties (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-calls-libya-conference-in-berlin/a-51999875).
The above is emphasised by what Middle East and North Africa expert, Tim Eaton, stated, “And, frankly, Germany has been unable to bridge the gap between even its European allies, some of whom are seeking eventually the victory of Haftar over his opponents and others who are more critical of his ability to win and are more supportive of the GNA” and “if what we’ve seen to date is any indication, Germany isn’t going to be able to dictate those terms”.
Much is to be determined by the results and moods that come out from the Berlin Conference, this coming Sunday, 19th January 2020.