Following G7 meeting, leaders of Libya’s rival governments congregate in Germany for first direct talks with hopes of reaching an agreement by Ramadan.
Shortly after the leaders of the G7 held summit in the Bavarian alps, leaders from Libya’s Tripoli based General National Council (GNC) and its rival Tobruk based House of Representatives (HoR) held their first ever face-to-face talks in the German capital of Berlin.
Notably, members from the Misrata city council, home of Libya’s most powerful armed groupwhich has borne the brunt of the fight against fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, were also in attendance at the talks.
The meeting held Wednesday night occurred despite the HoR’s initial refusal to attend the talks with Tareq al Jouroushi, a senior member of the assembly, announcing that “A majority of deputies voted to reject” an initial proposal for a joint government presented to both bodies by United Nations Special Envoy Bernardino Leon.
The talks in Berlin, breaking ground in creating the first direct communication and negotiation between the two bodies since Libya broke out into civil war last August, were presided over by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Leon, the later of which stated a “positive” outcome had emerged from the engagement.
Stating that there are “vey strong” calls for a unity government “from all sides, all cities,” Leon said that there was a desire to “celebrate Ramadan in peace,” setting a deadline of Thursday the 18th to reach a solution in the talks.
“The Libyans have been working together, discussing, interacting. This has not been possible before,” said Leon urging the “hardliners” in the two camps to be willing to make compromise.
Though Leon took an optimistic and positive stance, Steinmeier’s remarks had darker undertones as he declared that the two groups are running out of time.
“This proposal constitutes an opportunity. But there will not be many opportunities to follow. It might be the last and only one to prevent Libya from crumbling.”
“We said that the time has come when there are no more excuses. There is no more time to wait for a fifth or sixth proposal from Bernardino Leon.”
Steinmeier’s words form more on an omen, depicting just how fed-up western powers have become with the continuously deteriorating situation in Libya.
Germany and the rest of the European Union have grown weary with the instability in the country as the decrease in the continent’s vital oil imports has only been compounded on by the burden of rescue operations and the hosting of migrants who use Libya as a hub to make illegal naval passage into Europe.
Preventing the perilous journey the migrants undertake has become a lynchpin in the continent’s internal debates, as all EU member states remain adamant on not welcoming refugee populations.
The EU has gone as far as to suggest conducting airstrikes on vessels they suspect to have involvement in the human trafficking endeavor, a notion rejected by both the GNC and the HoR.
However, as the HoR has addressed the EU’s requests of cooperation with hostility and defiance, the GNC has been the more understanding of the two parties, creating a border guarding and immigration monitoring initiative aimed at capturing and deporting migrants back to their home countries.
The immigration initiative, put forth by the GNC and enforced by Misratan militiamen has temporarily kept the EU at bay from taking any military action of its own, albeit pending a unity government in the country further testing the patients of EU states.
Beginning last August with the HoR’s failed attempt at an armed closure of the GNC, as with migrants, the turmoil and disorder in the country has made it a hub for ISIS insurgency.
Just a sea’s journey away from Europe, the emergence of ISIS in Libya has made it too close for comfort as the group’s presence has only further forced EU member states to seek an expediteddiplomatic solution in the country.
However, the HoR’s actions have raised doubts as to the intentions of the body yet again.
Preventing Tripoli’s delegations from attending previous talks, refusing them all together, or striking the capital while talks are in session, the HoR had sought heavy arms from EU countries claiming their need in order to tackle ISIS insurgency, yet the militias of its Army Head KhalifaHaftar are yet to do so.
Haftar’s forces have been entrenched in clashes with the Tripoli allied Shura Council in Benghazi since “Operation Dignity”, his armed attempt at gaining HoR hegemony through armed clashes began in late August.
Due to the failure of his forces to secure control over Benghazi, Haftar has sought and received arms from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates despite an ongoing UN Security Council arms embargo.
However, the Embargo threatens action against those selling Haftar the heavy weaponry he deems needed to fulfill his task.
Though Leon maybe “positive” about the talks in Berlin while Germany itself puts its weight behind the negotiations, the HoR’s latest actions threaten to undermine the talks once more.
Immediately after initially rejecting Leon’s proposal and invitation to Berlin, HoR allied Egypt demanded that the international community to “stop wasting time” with the talks stating that the fight on terrorism cannot be “postponed.”
Though the EU and UN both seek a diplomatic solution while the GNC has shown the willingness to make compromises to reach a solution as the HoR and its allies may work to undermine the June 18 deadline.
By Tevhid Nazmi Basturk