Libya’s Haftar and UN envoy discuss ways to speed up peace process

As part of efforts to unite rival Libyan factions as the country prepares for national elections on Dec. 24, Jan Kubis, the UN’s Special Envoy for Libya, met on Friday in Benghazi with Gen. Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA).

The UN Support Mission in Libya said that Haftar and Kubis agreed on the importance of all parties in Libya working to ensure the elections go ahead as planned. They also discussed ways to speed up the implementation of the ceasefire agreement in the country, and the reopening of a key coastal road linking Tripoli in the west with Benghazi.

Since 2015, Libya has been split between two rival authorities: the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west of the country, and the LNA-backed House of Representatives in the east.

On Thursday, Kubis and his team visited Tripoli to meet two members of the three-person interim Libyan Presidential Council: President-designate Mohamed Almenfi and Abdullah El-Lafi.

They discussed ways in which the UN can support the implementation of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s (LPDF) political roadmap, which was agreed in Tunis in November, including the holding of an official vote of confidence in the House of Representatives.

Kubis is making his first visit to Libya since his appointment as special envoy by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in January. Before that the Slovakian diplomat served as the organization’s envoy to Lebanon.

LPDF delegates met in Geneva this month to elect a transitional authority tasked with guiding the country toward the “sacred goal” of national elections in December. The selection of an interim Presidential Council and prime minister was hailed as a milestone in a political process that seeks to reunite the fractured country and end its protracted war.

Kubis also met the GNA’s minister of defense and other senior officials from the Defense Ministry, during which they discussed the security situation in the country and the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

And during talks with the head of the electoral commission, Kubis said that the UN stands ready to provide all necessary technical support to ensure the success of the democratic process.

It remains to be seen what effects the discussions Kubis has had this week will have on progress in the efforts to deploy ceasefire monitors and encourage mercenaries and other foreign forces to leave Libya.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said that while there is no news yet on whether foreign fighters are departing, “this is something we’re discussing with the parties on the ground.”

He added: “Mr. Kubis will continue with his work on that, just as he has been continuing to work with the various parties on the ground regarding the question of the deployment of ceasefire monitors.

“We are not yet ready to proceed with the deployment but it is something that is being taken up by the various parties and at the Joint Military (Commission).”

He said that work was continuing with all parties in Libya to prepare for the arrival of the monitors and ensure that they are able to carry out their work.

“We had the Joint Military Commission meet last week to consider the next steps about operationalizing the ceasefire agreement, including timelines,” said Haq. “And, as you know … this week Mr. Kubis is following up on that issue with the various parties on the ground.

“So, we’re trying to get the ceasefire language fleshed out and the ceasefire agreement fleshed out, and then we can have a timetable for their deployment.”

New UN envoys approved to mediate Libya

Security Council approves UN chief’s proposal to appoint Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov as UN Libya special envoy and Norwegian Tor Wennesland as UN Middle East envoy.
NEW YORK – The UN Security Council on Tuesday approved a proposal by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov as the UN Libya special envoy and Norwegian Tor Wennesland as the UN Middle East envoy, diplomats said.

Mladenov will replace Ghassan Salame, who stepped down as the UN Libya envoy in March due to stress, and Wennesland succeeds Mladenov, who has spent the past five years as the UN mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

The appointments end months of bickering among council members sparked by a US push to split the Libya role, with one person running the UN political mission and another focused on conflict mediation. The Security Council agreed to that proposal in September, but Russia and China abstained.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. In October, the two major sides in the country’s war – the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) – agreed a ceasefire.

“The members of the Security Council underlined the importance of a credible and effective Libyan-led Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism and looked forward to a comprehensive report by the Secretary-General on the proposals for effective ceasefire monitoring under the auspices of the United Nations,” the 15-member body said in a statement on Tuesday.

The council also reiterated a call for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya.

Wennesland is currently Norway’s special envoy on the Middle East peace process. The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

First published on Middle East Online

Turkey steps up military intervention in Libya

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has said sources revealed Turkey has stepped up its military involvement in Libya and will resume sending mercenaries to Libya.

According to sources, Ankara intends to send a new batch of Syrian fighters to Libya in the next few days, despite the ongoing negotiations for a political solution after the agreement on the ceasefire between Libyan parties.

The Observatory reported that the return of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries has been suspended for over 20 days, since the latest batch arrived in Syria in mid-November.

SOHR reported that about 18,000 Syrian mercenaries arrived in Libya, including 350 children under the age of 18, of whom 10,750 returned to Syria after completing the duration of their contracts and receiving their salaries.

The number of extremists transported from Syria to Libya has reached 10,000, including 2,500 Tunisians, to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

The Observatory indicated that 496 Syrians have been killed in Libya.

First published on EgyptToday

Ahmed Maiteeq: I will be happy to serve the Libyan people if they choose me as the head of the next national unity government

Deputy Chairman of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord, Ahmed Maiteeq, pledged to achieve economic recovery and a fair distribution of wealth if he is chosen as the head of the national unity government, which is expected to be formed during the political dialogue.

I will be happy to serve the Libyan people if they choose me as the head of the next national unity government, Maiteeq said on Thursday in an interview with the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera”.

He added, “If this happens, I will first and foremost commit to achieving economic recovery, and working with the Central Bank to solve the liquidity crisis and equitable distribution of energy resources’ revenues.”

Regarding accusations of treason following negotiations with the commander of the Libyan National Army Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, that resulted afterwards in the resumption of oil production, and whether he considered the latter a partner in the dialogue, Ahmed Maitiq said: “I say it frankly: Isolation is useless, it only creates opportunities for war”.

“If part of the Libyans considers Haftar their representative, then it is legitimate to include him in the political process,” he stated.

GNA Forces Clash in Tarhuna

On early Wednesday, clashes have erupted between armed militias in the city of Tarhuna, 65km southeast of the capital Tripoli.

One of the groups was identified as part of the ‘Naaji Brigade’ while the other is believed to be the ‘Special Deterrence Forces’ (aka RADA), which is based in Tripoli’s Mitiga airbase.

The media office of RADA’s Unit 444 stated that its sniper and mortar companies had reached the city of Tarhuna to implement the Military Attorney General’s orders to arrest “wanted persons accused of revenge killings.”

The media office added that an armed clash ensued between the unit’s patrol and an armed group affiliated with the “Naaji Brigade” which had set up a random stopover guarded by allegedly “drunk” armed men.

First published on Libya Review

UN voices optimism as military rivals meet in Libya

The United Nations voiced optimism on Monday as rival Libyan military officers began talks on home soil for the first time following a ceasefire agreement last month.

“A lot of progress was made today,” Stephanie Williams, the UN’s acting envoy to the troubled North African nation, said at the end of the first day of talks.

“The courage and determination… between those officers is what is needed from your political class,” she added.

The three-day meeting of the joint military commission is taking place in Ghadames, a desert oasis some 465 kilometres (290 miles) south-west of the capital Tripoli.

The remote area, near Libya’s borders with both Algeria and Tunisia, is far from the power bases of either side.

The military commission had been dubbed “5+5,” because it is made up of five officers from each camp.

“It’s not the 5+5 now, it’s the Committee of Ten,” added Williams. “It’s truly a joint Libyan committee.”

The meeting follows an October 23 deal when the two warring factions signed a “permanent” ceasefire agreement intended to pave the way towards a political solution to the country’s grinding conflict.

Williams said Monday that a “determination to implement the ceasefire agreement was present at the table.”

Libya, with Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, has been wracked by conflict for nearly a decade, since the overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

It has since been dominated by armed groups and divided between two bitterly-opposed administrations: the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli, and a rival administration in the east backed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its commander, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The talks are part of long-running efforts to broker peace.

Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019, but was pushed back in June by the GNA with military support from Turkey.

Warring factions returned to the negotiating table in September in UN-supported talks, with negotiations being held in Morocco, Egypt and Switzerland.

On November 9, the political leaders are due to hold face-to-face talks in Tunisia to discuss a political roadmap that would eventually lead to presidential and parliamentary elections.

The UN mission last week held a virtual preparatory meeting, with both sides of the conflict criticising the mission over the choice of attendees.

“Libyans want respect and justice; they want unified and fair governance; and most importantly they want national unity, national sovereignty and a coherent social fabric. What matters to the Libyan people is ‘what’ — not ‘who,’” Williams said at that online meeting.

First published on Arab Weekly

Libya oil production at 680,000 barrels per day

Libyan oil production has reached 680,000 barrels per day (bpd), a Libyan oil source said on Thursday, more than a third higher than earlier this month, as the OPEC member seeks to revive its oil industry.

Libya’s National Oil Corp. (NOC) on Monday ended force majeure on the last facilities closed by an eight-month blockade of oil exports by eastern forces.

The blockade in January cut Libyan oil production to around 100,000 bpd from 1.2 million bpd.

The current output level marks a jump from around 500,000 bpd earlier this month.

The NOC said last week it expected oil production to rise to 1 million bpd in a few weeks’ time.

On Thursday, Repsol’s CEO said production at the Sharara oil field, Libya’s largest, is about 160,000 bpd, and expected to rise gradually to 300,000 bpd.

Libya’s growing output has weighed on prices as demand concerns are increased by government restrictions to contain a second wave of the new coronavirus.

Brent and US WTI crude futures were both down more than 5 percent on Thursday, extending another 5 percent loss the previous day.

Higher Libyan output and the weak demand outlook are expected to dominate talks at a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies — a group known as OPEC+ — on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

OPEC+ is limiting production by 7.7 million bpd, but is expected to shave around 2 million bpd from the supply curbs from January.

First published on Arab News

United Nations announces launch of Libyan political dialogue

Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Libya, Stephanie Williams, announced on Monday the launch of political consultations between the Libyan parties via video conference within the framework of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. The direct meeting will begin on November 9.

Williams said – according to a statement issued by the United Nations on Sunday – that the resumption of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum comes at a time when great hope prevails after the signing of the permanent ceasefire agreement throughout Libya on October 23. She indicated that the consultative meetings with several Libyan parties in the previous months facilitated the re-launch of the Libyan Political Forum.

The statement added that the UN mission had invited 75 participants representing all the political and social spectrums of the Libyan society, to participate in the first meeting of the comprehensive Libyan Political Forum via video conference.

The statement indicated that the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum is a comprehensive Libyan-Libyan dialogue based on the outcomes of the Berlin Conference on Libya, which was approved by the Security Council Resolution 2510 (2020) and Security Council Resolution 2542 (2020).

Williams noted that the participants in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum were selected from different categories based on the principles of inclusiveness and fair geographical, political, tribal, and social representation.

She explained that the group includes representatives from the Libyan House of Representatives and the High Council of State, in addition to the active political forces outside the two institutions; this coordination takes place in light of the commitment to the participation of women, and youth.

The statement indicated that the first meeting of the members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum reviewed the latest developments related to the economic and military tracks, the human rights path, and the international humanitarian law. The participants heard the recommendations of the meetings held by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General with representatives of the Libyan community from the municipalities, as well as women, youth and civil society representatives.

The mission called on all forum participants to shoulder their responsibilities before the Libyan people and to engage constructively and in good faith in the talks, placing Libya and the public interest as a priority.

The mission expressed appreciation for the commitment of the forum participants and the spirit of responsibility and patriotism of those who chose to withdraw from the Forum for Political Dialogue because of their desire to run for executive positions in the preliminary stage, which enhances the transparency and legitimacy of this process.

The statement emphasized that the main goal of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum is to find consensus on a unified executive authority and on the arrangements for holding national elections in the shortest possible time to restore Libyan sovereignty and give democratic legitimacy to Libyan institutions.

In exclusive statements to Egypt Today, Ali al-Takbali, a member of the National Defense and Security Committee in the Libyan Parliament, accused the United Nations Support Mission in Libya of selecting a large number of figures belonging to the political Islam movement.

In turn, Libyan Member of Parliament Ibrahim Al-Dorsi said that the Libyan people are interested in the political dialogue meetings to achieve their aspirations, explaining that no one knows the international mission’s criteria for selecting names to participate in the political dialogue, and no one knows the reasons for the absence of figures with great influence.

Darsi criticized the marginalization of important figures in the eastern region of the country in favour of names that have no influence, ruling out the existence of a clear and specific mechanism for selecting the participating personalities. He stressed that the international mission was supposed to choose the political dialogue committee thoughtfully and not randomly.

Meanwhile, Libyan politician FarajYassin confirmed that most of the participants in the political dialogue meetings are ambiguous, accusing these participants of fueling the Libyan scene, especially those affiliated to the Brotherhood. Yassin further explained that they will not reach satisfactory results unless they are subjected to international pressure, most importantly from the United States.

The Libyan politician indicated that the Libyan military meetings had reached good results that were hindered by the reconciliation government, referring to the crimes of armed militias that destroyed the capabilities of the Libyan people and burnt oil tanks.

Yassin accused the United Nations of following the path of some Western countries that wrongly diagnosed the Libyan case to impose terrorist groups on the political scene.

The delegations of the Military Committee at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, signed a ceasefire agreement on October 23, in the presence of the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-general of the United Nations and the Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Stephanie Williams.

This agreement came as a result of the continuous efforts led by the Egyptian state to reduce tension inside the Libyan territories and achieve peace and security for the Libyan people.

The Cairo meetings in Hurghada and the six military meetings that were held in Cairo during the years 2017 and 2018 paved the way for the signing of the ceasefire agreement in the Swiss city, Geneva.

The success achieved today came as a continuation of the first face-to-face meeting hosted by Egypt in Hurghada late September,” Hafez said, urging the countries involved in the Libyan affairs to contribute to the efforts to ensure the ceasefire.

Previously, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with LAAF head, Commander KhalifaHaftar, and Libyan Parliamentary Speaker AguilaSalehin Cairo, to discuss ways to resolve the Libyan crisis. Both Libyan officials emphasized that any initiative to solve the crisis in the war-torn country has to include “the removal of Turkish-backed mercenaries and militias.”

It is worth mentioning that GNA Head Fayez al-Sarraj announced earlier in September his intention to resign by the end of October.

Libya has suffered a severe division between two factions; the Libyan Parliament and the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal KhalifaHaftar in the east; and the GNA led by Fayez al-Sarraj. The latter is internationally recognized but is not accepted by the Parliament.

First published on Egypt Today

Egypt and Libya’s roadmap

Egypt is playing a key role in preparation for the anticipated comprehensive talks on Libya, scheduled for October in Geneva, based on the outcomes of the Berlin Conference.

For months, Egypt has been hosting preliminary Libyan meetings, the last of which took place in Hurghada in the attendance of the Libyan security committee charged with the ceasefire, military arrangements to unify the military institution and security apparatuses, and the security arrangements concerning moving the next Libyan government to Sirte, as a temporary capital.

In the near future, Cairo will host other Libyan events, such as that of the constitutional committee, which will draft the framework of Libya’s constitutional document. Libya’s economic committee, delegations from east and west Libya, prime among whom are political, security, and military leaders, figureheads and diplomats from countries involved in the settlement process, and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSML) will also converge in Cairo.

Egypt’s integral role in drawing a roadmap for the future of Libya post the Skhirat Agreement is a continuation of its efforts in the previous transitional phase, which were hampered by the complex crises Libya has endured since 2016. Flagrant foreign interventions fuelled political conflicts and military clashes during the Tripoli battle. These developments led Egypt to become more careful in dealing with the roots of the Libyan crisis through a set of basic principles based on the lessons learnt in the previous stage. 

These principles include the fair distribution of wealth and power. Moreover, the Cairo Declaration, followed by the Sirte-Jufra announcement concerning the “western military zone”, has put an end to armed clashes between Libyan factions, putting on the table the political path as the only means to settle the crisis.

The UN Security Council, the UNSML, and the US have commended Cairo’s efforts in the Libyan file. The international community’s impression about Cairo’s role in settling the Libyan crisis reflects Egypt’s seriousness and ability to shift the course of events towards the internationally-agreed path – the Berlin Conference outcomes. 

Egypt has been stressing joint coordination, which also reflects it is not seeking to achieve its own interests nor trying to impose a certain political authority on the Libyans. Egypt is seeking agreement between all the Libyan factions to stabilise the country torn by political and armed conflicts for a decade.

Cairo has dedicated all its political, diplomatic, and security resources to support a political settlement for Libya. The Egyptian leadership, represented by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, is paying attention to the minutest details concerning the Libyan file. Cairo has spared no effort, on the Libyan and international stages, to prevent obstacles aiming to hinder the political path.

A number of parties active in the Libyan scene are seeking their own benefits. Cairo doesn’t oppose foreign parties trying to serve their interests in Libya. It objects, however, to the mechanisms they are using to claim their interests, either through moving mercenaries into Libya or being militarily present on the Libyan ground.

This is why Cairo, in coordination with other partners, is endeavouring to end these practices, highlighting this point at every event it hosts on Libya.

Egypt is fully aware its role is not limited to drawing a roadmap for Libya’s future. More important are the implementation of the roadmap’s recommendations and overcoming challenges on the Libyan stage in the next phase.


EU imposes sanctions on Turkish company for breaking U.N. arms embargo on Libya

The European Union imposed sanctions on Monday on a Turkish shipping company for breaking the United Nations arms embargo on Libya, Reuters said.

The EU froze assets of Avrasya Shipping whose cargo ship, Çirkin, accused of smuggling weapons to Libya and involved in an incident on June 10 in which the French frigate Courbet said it was illuminated by the targeting radar of a Turkish warship escorting a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Courbet was part of NATO’s Sea Guardian operation, which helps provide maritime security in the region. France said it was acting on intelligence from NATO that the Turkish-escorted ship was suspected of trafficking arms to Libya.

“The Çirkin has been linked to transports of military material to Libya in May and June 2020,” Reuters cited the EU’s Official Journal as saying.

Turkey has been denying arms trafficking allegations and said the ship was carrying humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.

The EU has a naval mission to support the U.N. embargo on Libya and the Courbet was part of NATO’s Sea Guardian operation, which helps provide maritime security in the region.

Turkey and France back opposing sides in Libya’s civil war. Turkey is supporting the U.N.-recognised, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in its fight against eastern-based rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is backed by Russia, Egypt, and France, among others.