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Home » Home, UN NEWS » What UN Can Do for Libya After Berlin Conference

What UN Can Do for Libya After Berlin Conference

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Credit UN audio visual library)

Stefano Vaccara, author and professor at Liman College New York, also a UN correspondent for a Rome based "Radio Radicale" and Editor in Chief of "La Voce di New York" (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress UN, January 2020)

Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the UN in Libya and Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General - 17 November 2019 (Credit UN Photo/Rick Bajornas, New York).

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Credit UN audio visual library)

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Credit UN audio visual library)

By Erol Avdović (WEBPUBLICAPRESS / UNITED NATIONS), New York – The United Nations has “some capacity to report back on ceasefire violations,” said chief spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Stephane Dujarric, answering to WebpublicaPress (WPP) reporter’s question – who will in fact monitor the fragile truce in Libya. The ceasefire was holding immediately after agreement was reached last week in Berlin at the conference on Libya. This high profile international meeting was primarily rated as very successful, though the situation in Libya continues to be describe as chaotic and the source of insecurity throughout the Mediterranean basin..

(You can also read Erol Avdovic on this topic at IDN /In Depth News/ here – click)

Monitoring the ceasefire is a part of UN’s mandate as outlined in the Secretary General’s latest report on Libya, Dujarric reminded.

But, Mr. Dujarric also pointed out – there is no massive UN capacity on the ground “to do full‑scale monitoring.”  In meantime Ghassan Salame, since June 2017 UN special representative and chief of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is back to Tripoli. He is in full gears UN mission “trying to convene” the Libyan Joint Military Committee “to initiate discussions” that the UN “hope would lead to a permanent ceasefire,” as UN spokesperson told WPP. Mr. Dujarric also said – UN is working on the political dialogue platform, as well.

 

The huge success of German diplomacy 

 

UN is prizing Berlin’s meeting on Libya for spirit of multilateral cooperation with number of national governments attended, including the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and head of the UNSMIL Mr. Salame,. They all “worked very closely with German authorities.”  UN say the conference was very well led and organized by Chancellor Angela Merkel along with senior diplomats from the German State Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Notwithstanding this high exchange of diplomatic compliments on the New York Berlin route – it is not entirely certain how the German organized peace gathering will bring the much-needed truce as a useful intermezzo to devise genuine negotiations.

Some analysts already compared these Berlin based negotiations with those of Dayton and called

Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Berlin 19 January 2020 (Courtesy photo for education only)

Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Berlin 19 January 2020 (Courtesy photo for education only)

them “Mini Dayton”; US brokered Dayton Peace Conference in Ohio 1995, brought peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina after four years of brutal war. The US talks on Bosnia were conducted in a kind of diplomatic quarantine and lasted for three weeks until agreement was reached. The Berlin process, in reality was at least the bit of that “Dayton atmosphere,” but far different at its core.

The glowing Libyan desert indicates a different prospective when it comes to the mutual trust of warring parties. The similarity is that — it is certainly under the auspices of those big and powerful countries, much more than the UN itself – that Libya can get out of this tunnel with no light at its end.

Erdogan and Putin differs on Libya

And, Turkey recently has become a important factor in Libya sending their military boots on the ground. Ankara clearly has its favorites in this battle.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said – general Khalifa Haftar who is fighting against UN recognized Libyan government forces is already and repeatedly violating Libya’s truce. Thus, Haftar cannot be expected to respect the ceasefire agreed in Berlin, he said. Without mentioning Washington and Moscow Mr. Erdogan stated – the international support for Libyan National Army (LNA) “was spoiling Haftar.”

“At this point, we need to see clearly what Haftar’s identity is. He is a man who has betrayed his superiors before as well,” Erdoğan said, as the Turkish media reported.

According to the various sources about half of the Haftar’s LNA forces consist of several militias including “Madkhali” Salafists, militants, armed gunmen from Sudan, Chad, and also Russian mercenaries, known as “Wagner Group” (“Группа Bагнера“ - orig. in Russian).

“Wagner” considered to be a private military contracting agency with the close ties to Kremlin. Their contractors are reportedly coming from various countries including some Balkan states. They have taken part in different conflicts, like in the civil war in Syria on the side of the government in Damascus, and in the war for Ukraine in Eastern part – Donbass area.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayip Erdogan (Courtesy photo Sputnik for education only)

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayip Erdogan (Courtesy photo Sputnik for education only)

By supporting official government in Tripoli led by Fayez al-Sarraj and being such openly against general Haftar official Ankara comes to odds with Moscow. Although Ankara since recently has warmed its relations with Moscow in various segments of military, trade and political cooperation, Mr. Erdogan openly criticized Russian’s support for their paid fighters on the Haftar’s side.

UN powerless and with tied hands again

Western countries, Russia, Turkey, the UAE and Egypt agreed in Berlin to uphold an existing arms embargo on Libya. The UN often states that the only possible solution in such situations is a political agreement, and that new weapons are merely refueling.

In a written statement the UN Mission in Libya said that since Berlin agreement already “numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the Western and Eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advanced weapons, armored vehicles, advisers and fighters.”

And UNSMIL undoubtedly condemned these “ongoing violations, which risk plunging the country into a renewed and intensified round of fighting,”

“It is not possible to expect mercy and understanding from someone like this (Haftar) on the ceasefire,” Mr. Erdogan said before leaving to Algeria and other African within his few days tour to this continent.

Turkish leader has pointed his finger at the rebel Libyan general who among the others enjoys the support of both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In fact official Washington has never condemned Haftar’s action against government in Tripoli. Mr. Erdogan finger-pointed general for his “continuing attacks” with “all his resources” against official Libyan Government Army (GNA).

“However, he (Haftar) will not be successful here,” the Turkish president said self-confidently.

Haftar’s LNA possesses significant military including air force and some navy. However, most of the Libyan Navy is loyal to the Government National Army.Since December 2015. the national government of Libya is led by former parliamentarian now prime minister Fayez al-Sarajji.

 

What about the others

 

While Berlin peace process gave some hope, it appears – the Libyan warring parties are indeed encouraged with the support of international power centers – to go in their own directions. As in other similar cases all over the world, seems that the Libyan civil war will not be stopped only by the Libyans’ determination to end conflict that is destroying this richest African country since 2011. (Colonel Moammar el-Gaddafi ruled Libya with the iron fist from 1969 until his assassination in October 2011was ousted from the power).

Stefano Vaccara, author and professor at Liman College New York, also a UN correspondent for a Rome based "Radio Radicale" and Editor in Chief of "La Voce di New York" (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress UN, January 2020)

Stefano Vaccara, author and professor at Liman College New York, also a UN correspondent for a Rome based “Radio Radicale” and Editor in Chief of “La Voce di New York” (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress
UN, January 2020)

“The Libyan sin is to be that very rich,” says Stefano Vaccara, professor at the New York Leman College, also a UN correspondent for Rome based “Radio Radicale and Editor in Chief of “La Voce di New York.” Vaccara, who is familiar with the issue told WebpublicaPress, Libya has long been regarded as a “very useful prey.”

Unfortunately, Libya is another country that, due to its extremely rich oil fields is experiencing the sad fate of other Middle Eastern nations, says Vaccara. And he was not having too much confidence in the final outcome of the Berlin process, since lot of participants with quite different agenda got involved. Vaccara also sees the UN as a passive factor that objectively cannot do too much.

“One would argue, Italy should have been involved in this process (in Berlin), because in some ways that country depends on Libyan oil. Unlike France, Italy do not have atomic power plants and Libyan oil is important to her, so any extension of the Libyan agony indirectly affects Italy,” professor Vacara told WPP. He added – the absence of official Rome from these peace talks in Germany is proof how deep is political crisis in Italy and how week is their international standing.

Libya became an Italian colony after Italo-Turkish war and as such has lasted several decades, from1910 to1947; in 1934 the official name of the country was “Italian Libya,” although Rome faced rivalry in France and Great Britain on the Libyan soil. Indeed, much of modern Italian history is tied to this African country.

For Turkey’s presence in the Berlin process, Vacara says “is not a good sign,” since Libya was also an Ottoman colony. He says Ankara’s involvement could hint at “aspirations for partition”, along the “historic lines between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.”

The Western and Eastern parts of the country known by these names – Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were under Islamic rule and began as early as the 7th century.

“It is complicated,” Vaccara confesses. But it is precisely because of all the historical experience – the Berlin Libyan conference has only made just few steps forward and a fresh start, but with still not quite certain epilogue.

 

Is UN to much optimistic

 

In Berlin, a special committee made up of five military officials from each side was agreed, just to

Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the UN in Libya and Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General - 17 November 2019 (Credit UN Photo/Rick Bajornas, New York).

Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the UN in Libya and Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General – 17 November 2019 (Credit UN Photo/Rick Bajornas, New York).

uphold the fragile truce and to try to move forward with some sort of political upgrade. The committee is scheduled to meet in Geneva, but Turkish president seems rather very upset – alarming of Haftar’s disrespect of the truce. Turks clearly do not trust this general at all. And Mr. Erdogan said he does not expect any results from Libyan committee either.

Yet, UN spokesperson told WPP, it was “very much appreciated” that this international conference (in Berlin) “was fed into the Libyan‑owned and the Libyan‑led process, which is being facilitated by the United Nations.”

Mr. Dujarric said the participants “worked very closely with all those parties that were invited.” The United Nations were “encouraged by the calls of the participants in the Berlin Conference for a full‑fledged ceasefire,” Dujarric stressed. And this is only beginning.

UN is hoping “there would be a number of other Libya meetings on the different tracks that Mr. Salame has outlined.”

“We are working actively to try to support such calls, and we urge all (UN) member states to put pressure on both sides to make sure that the guns fall silent.”

At the ground the special representative Ghassan Salame is in constant consultation with the UN Headquarters in New York and is trying to do everything to maintain the ceasefire in Libya by bringing the views of the warring parties closer together.

But, those with experience wonder – can pressure indeed works in this kind of situation? We have seen before in many different situations similar kind of optimism that ended only with the purchase of expensive time, unfortunately with more victims who were waiting for the salvation in vain. And to often we were also seeing a partial or complete diplomatic defeat of the United Nations.

Violations and missed opportunities

Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany and President of the Security Council for the month of April, chairs the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security, with a focus on sexual violence in conflict. 23 April 2019 (UN photo by Loey Felipe)

Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany and President of the Security Council for the month of April, chairs the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security, 
23 April 2019 (UN photo by Loey Felipe)

When asked to comment the Foreign Minister for Germany Mr. Heiko Maas’ disappointment with lack of progress, of the follow‑up on the Berlin peace conference and his request that the UN Security Council should be informed Mr. Dujarric said said the United Nations share the disappointment expressed by Mr. Salame of continuing violation of the arms embargo.

He spoke about “seeing flights continue to arrive in different parts of Libya, disgorging weapons, troops, armoured carriers.”

“Those are blatant violations of the Security Council resolution,” UN spokesperson told WPP at the daily press briefing.

Dujarric said special representative Salame, “for his part, is pushing forward, as we always do, on the political track, with trying to organize and set up the number of meetings that he had flagged, on the military issues, on political issues, on economic issues.”

He reaffirmed, UN  will continue “to persevere and push for the political track, but, obviously, the parties on the ground need to honor the cessation of hostilities.”

“And all those parties who are helping one side or another need to abide by the commitments made in Berlin and need to abide by Security Council resolutions.”

Will they it is hard to predict, but realists  are closer to expecting the collapse of these attempts than to some sudden compromise. Indeed, compromise is another name for the UN, but “missed opportunities” could be their nickname.

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