What to expect from the German conference on the Libyan crisis

Germany started to show concern over the Libya conflict once it began to produce time bombs of migrants, extremists and terrorists.
Tuesday 01/10/2019
Vehicles belonging to Libyan fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) are pictured during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar in al-Hira region 70 km south of the capital Tripoli, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Vehicles belonging to Libyan fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) are pictured during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar in al-Hira region 70 km south of the capital Tripoli, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)

Germany is organising an international conference to be attended by heads of state concerned with the Libyan crisis and whose purpose is to outline the guidelines for a political settlement.

Berlin will be trying avoid mistakes of previous initiatives, conferences and meetings. It recognises that this is going to be an opportunity to strengthen its role in the Middle East if it can cross the crisis into safer waters.

Although Berlin is a mediator that is accepted by some and whose initiative is backed by international powers, it is exposed to manoeuvres from many fronts that do not want the German initiative to achieve real results.

There will be questions about Germany’s role, partly because of the veil of secrecy and ambiguity maintained by Berlin regarding the conference agenda and mechanisms used to formulate it. Various parties are irked by the absence from the conference of certain one they believe are essential to a solution in Libya.

Some politically and militarily influential forces in Libya have become used to being represented at any conference on the situation at the expense of other political hues that have a stronger but invisible presence in the political, security, social and economic scenes. The German meeting is expected to give the latter consideration and break away from the traditional troika of the military establishment led by Libyan National Army Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the Presidential Council and the Government of National Accord headed by Fayez al-Sarraj and the parliament headed by Aqeela Saleh.

As an elected body with constitutional legitimacy, the parliament is perhaps the only party that can be relied on to play a decisive role in the coming period. It has picked up the pace of preparations towards resuming its activities before other parties find a way of blocking it. Indeed, there are parties suggesting the creation of a rival to the parliament to rekindle the fires of discord just as they did with the Presidential Council, the Government of National Accord and the State Council.

Germany is optimistic it can bring about a political settlement of the crisis but wishes do not make a stable peace in a normal conflict, especially in a hot and complex one such as the Libyan crisis. Libya is besieged by hungry hyenas ready to create chaos and terror, settle scores, spread new concepts in proxy warfare, employ extremists and use mercenaries from various parts of the world.

For the purposes of the meeting in Germany, there is a need to move into the open the Libyan crisis’s hidden aspects, away from the usual axioms regarding traditional classifications of the parties involved and their attempts at imposing particular currents during negotiations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has received political signs that encouraged her to increase the pace of protectionist moves to overcome the pitfalls set by France, Italy, Turkey and Qatar. She did not clash directly with any of them but sought dialogue with each to reassure them. Merkel is looking for realistic solutions to a crisis that can affect everyone and knows the practices of those four countries in Libya have nourished extremism and terrorism in Libya.

This is where the crux of the matter lies -- a consensus about the international tools needed to disable the violent groups in Libya, regardless of their forms and affiliations. Without a clear and specific approach, the German conference will not be useful and it will join its failed predecessors. The dilemma facing Berlin is how to convince those countries to engage in a project that eliminates terrorism in Libya.

Answering that question will set the post-conference path for Libya. All the details that can be discussed depend on dismantling the mystery of the operation of the militias under the nose of the UN mission and in violation of the alliances and agreements with the political forces in power. If Berlin find the magic formula during preparatory sessions, then it can expect to see ripe fruits fall.

A great deal of responsibility for reaching a positive outcome lies in the hands of forces that have a direct relationship with what is happening in Libya and have local arms and pressure tools that enable them to operate flexibly. Germany, whose influence in the Libyan crisis has not exceeded the limits of its good relations with some parties, knows that.

Germany has stayed out of the Libyan conflict because the crisis was far from its central concerns but when its repercussions began to produce migrants, extremists and terrorists, Berlin showed concern about the compounded effect of those factors in Libya. Leaving those factors unaddressed would make dealing with them in the future difficult, if not impossible.

It is feared that the compromises that Germany is undertaking could lead to it being bogged down in details that would reduce the conference from a summit to a much lower level. In that case, the conference can only produce inconclusive results, like previous ones in France and Italy, and the Libyan crisis will continue its spiral descent while the international community searches for a new opportunity towards a just political settlement.