France calls for international consensus on Libya peace process

France calls for international consensus on Libya peace process
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) speaks with Libya's Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj (L) in the Tunisian capital's eastern suburb of Carthage. (File/AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2020

France calls for international consensus on Libya peace process

France calls for international consensus on Libya peace process
  • French President Emmanuel Macron due in Berlin on Sunday for the start of crisis summit
  • Priority is ceasefire and negotiations between government and Libyan army, says diplomatic source

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron will arrive in Berlin on Sunday to take part in an international summit that aims to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Libya.

Ahead of the gathering, a French diplomatic source on Friday said the hope is that an international consensus can be reached to stabilize the situation, despite the differing goals of the participants. With a growing number of nations and groups actively involved in Libya, their goals need to be clarified, he added. France is participating in part to follow up on previous commitments it has made, he said, which need to be reconfirmed given the current volatile situation.

The source said that in light of the power struggle that has developed between the national unity government in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, and the Libyan National Army, commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which occupies about 80 per cent of the country, Macron will raise a number of issues, including: the necessity of ending the fighting between both sides in and around Tripoli, the only part of the country Haftar does not control; and the need for Al-Sarraj and Haftar to agree to negotiations within a framework agreed by the Berlin summit.

In addition to France, the participants in the peace conference include the US, Russia, China, the UK, Germany, Italy, the UAE, Turkey and a number of other African and Arab nations and organizations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is hosting the conference, met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Berlin on Saturday.

They discussed “efforts to establish peace in Libya,” the Berlin Conference, and strengthening stability in the Middle East.
The meeting at Merkel's invitation took place because the crown prince is unable to attend the conference on Sunday, a German government statement said. He asked the United Arab Emirates' foreign minister to attend in his place.

 


Despite the volatile backdrop against which it takes place, there are hopes that a peaceful solution is still possible if an internationally brokered agreement can be reached for a ceasefire and reconciliation process. Otherwise, it is feared Libya will become another battleground for warring regional and global powers.

The French diplomatic source said the conditions for a ceasefire were set by the UN Security Council in August last year, but that Russia, Turkey and Al-Sarraj have added additional conditions that are unacceptable to Haftar. The view from Paris, he added, is that any attempt to negotiate a ceasefire must be on realistic terms, and the priority is to prevent any escalation in fighting or expansion of the forces at war in the country. With this in mind, the announcement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he is sending troops to Tripoli is very worrying, he added.

The source said that if the peace effort is to succeed, all international powers need to take responsibility for their role in reaching a consensus to ensure stability, regardless of which side they support in the conflict.

He also called on all nations to respect an existing UN embargo on the supply of arms to the warring factions in Libya. The country is at risk of falling prey to many disruptive influences, he added, and the fear is that should the efforts to kick start peace negotiations fail, the flood gates will open and arms and troops will pour in. The country is on the brink of a total collapse that can only be prevented by a ceasefire, followed by an agreed political process to negotiate peace, he said.