Talks aimed at unifying the two warring parties in Libya’s conflict were held in neighboring Tunisia on Monday. The two sides include the Government of National Accord based in Tripoli, and the Eastern Parliament led by Gen Haftar conducted the talks as part of a continuing peace process. Last month the two groups signed a ceasefire agreement, and on Monday, this week, negotiations commenced. The talks aimed at forming a single government with the aim of holding elections.
Chaos in Libya
In 2011, Libya plunged into chaos. The NATO-backed uprising led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Gadhafi. The violence in Libya caused a split between rival east and west-based administrations. The internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) held the rival fractions to the west. Whereas warlord Khalifa Haftar and his militia held the east, they call home.
Over the years, each group has received support from different foreign powers and armed groups. For instance, Turkey supports the GNA while the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia support Haftar. Since the split, the foreign powers have been investing heavily in building up the military strength of the side they support but for a price. Because of this, the violence in Libya seemed to have no end.
Peace Talks aimed at unifying Libya
However, in October, the two rival administrations formed a ceasefire deal in the east and west of the country. The agreement allowed for the economically vital oil production to resume and caused a progression of the efforts to end years of political deadlock. This Monday, the UN-sponsored Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) opened talks in Libya. The LPDF is a fully inclusive intra-Libyan political dialogue established by the Berlin Conference Outcomes and endorsed by the UN Security Council. The LPDF aims to end nearly a decade of chaos and bloodshed by arranging elections.
LPDF selected seventy-five delegates to represent the existing state bodies and groups from across Libya’s political and social spectrum. Afterwards the forum invited the delegates to a luxury hotel in Gammarth near the Tunisian capital Tunis for the talks. The group was tasked with unifying Libya under a single interim executive that could conduct national elections. Their most important task, however, would be to agree on a timeline for elections.
On the streets of Tripoli, the talks have brought up mixed feelings. There are important groups in Tripoli who suffered in the fighting. The groups refuse to share half the pie with those they were at war with. Some citizens in Tripoli believe nothing will change as long as foreigners continue to decide for Libya. Others think the talks could turn a page on the war and call for increased international pressure from countries involved in Libya. Whereas some say an end to Libya’s conflict depends on an international will because foreign players control the parties at war.
So far, the UN and world leaders have welcomed the talks. Tunisia’s president hailed the historic moment at the opening of the discussions. The UN urged world powers to support the peace efforts and to respect the long-standing UN arms embargo.
Although there is relative peace on the ground in Libya, several analysts don’t believe the talks will lead to lasting peace. Some argue that if potential spoilers like Haftar and the militants don’t see themselves benefiting, hostilities could break out again.