Multiple tracks risk disrupting search for settlement in Libya
TUNIS – It is now the United States’ and Russia’s turn to jump on the bandwagon of intra-Libyan dialogue by opening talk tracks similar to the one in Bouznika, Morocco, in an effort to break the political deadlock deepened by dissonant regional and international agendas, the proliferation of arms, militias, mercenaries and direct Turkish military presence in western Libya.
The multiplicity of dialogue platforms made available in Cairo, Geneva and Moscow, in addition to Bouznika, has actually made Libyans warier about the prospects of a solution to their crisis given the dispersion of local and international efforts to end it.
On Friday, Moscow will host consultations between Russia and France on efforts to settle the Libyan crisis, according to the Russian foreign ministry.
Canadian security analyst Neil Hauer wondered about the path Russia would take in Libya, especially after failing to enable its ally, the Libyan National Army (LNA), to achieve a battlefield victory.
Hauer, a Middle East affairs specialist, wrote in an article published on the opinion website syndication bureau.com that “the most likely course of action will be to wait and see how the political and international situation develops. Moscow has retained ties with both of Libya’s main players, despite clearly favouring one side.”
“Without a massive recommitment of military and political capital to the country, the benefits of which would be unclear and unassured in any event, Moscow currently has little choice but to watch and wait for its next opening to affect the situation in Libya,” Hauer concluded.
From the American side, David Schenker, US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, revealed relentless efforts made by US diplomats, with European partners, to push the GNA headed by Fayez al-Sarraj and the LNA led by Khalifa Haftar “to engage productively in the negotiations.”
Schenker confirmed in a press statement that he spends quite a long time with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “discussing the Libyan crisis file,” in addition to holding discussions with his British and French counterparts. He described the parties to the conflict as “very stubborn,” making the situation difficult in Libya, and warned that Libya is on the verge of turning into another Syria.
Meanwhile, General Stephen Townsend, commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), urged Salah al-Din al-Namroush, the GNA's defence minister, to stop the GNA’s military build-up and have all foreign military forces and foreign mercenaries leave Libya.
The US embassy in Libya revealed in a statement that Townsend’s urging came during a video teleconference between Namrush in Tripoli and Townsend and US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland in Tunis. The three officials reviewed the latest political, security and military developments in Libya.
The US embassy added that Townsend and Norland confirmed during this conference “Washington's support for the continued intra-Libyan dialogue under the UN-led process, […] and for Libya’s counter-terrorism efforts, security sector reform, and calls for a lasting ceasefire, de-escalation of forces in central Libya, and the departure of all foreign military and mercenary forces from Libya."
Meetings and dialogue sessions have been held since last Monday at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland between several Libyan parties under the auspices of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, amid a strict blackout about their goals and agendas.
At the same time, other intra-Libyan meetings are taking place in the Egyptian capital between representatives of the Libyan parliament and the High Council of State.
While Libyan political and parliamentary circles view these moves with some caution, the participants in the intra-Libyan dialogue track in the Moroccan suburb of Bouznika resumed meetings on Thursday in an effort to reach an agreement on the sharing of the sovereign positions, the restructuring of state institutions and the stabilisation of the ceasefire.
Despite prevailing optimism about the dialogue sessions that started last Sunday, which were reinforced by regional and international assurances that the outcome of the talks would be approved, some serious concerns have emerged about manoeuvres by several parties to drown the pursuit of a settlement efforts by the multi-track strategy.
These concerns were clearly expressed by MP Abd al-Nabi Bashir Abd al-Mawla, a member of the Libyan parliament from the city of Zawiya, who told The Arab Weekly by phone that these parallel tracks and multiple dialogue platforms could disperse efforts to find a political settlement to the Libyan crisis at this critical stage.
He stated that the multiplicity of dialogue tracks does not serve the Libyan cause at all, and comes within the context of a plan to confuse the scene in the service of regional and international agendas that want to keep Libya losing its sovereignty, considering in this regard the Cairo track as a manoeuvre by the head of the Tripoli government, Fayez al-Sarraj, aimed at completely mixing the cards of the situation.
He said that the aim of this is to disrupt the Bouznika track in Morocco, which he qualified as the “right” path that really seeks a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis, away from foreign and military intervention.
He stressed the need to support this track and the importance of working in order to provide the appropriate climate for it to develop a clear roadmap for political consensus, away from other dialogue platforms that he said involve suspicious “dances” on the suffering of the Libyan people.