Calling it “a new phase for peace in Libya,” Germany’s Foreign Ministry and the United Nations wrapped up its second conference on Wednesday for Libya’s transitional government and 16 other countries with a joint statement confident of holding scheduled elections at the end of the year.
The Berlin conference was a follow-up to one in January 2020, when heads of Libya’s two main warring factions and leaders of 11 nations met for U.N.-supported talks where they agreed to set up a ceasefire committee and respect a widely ignored arms embargo.
Envoys came from Algeria, China, Congo, Congo Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with those from the African Union, European Union, and League of Arab States.
“We underline the importance of the implementation of confidence-building measures to create an environment conducive for successful national elections, and the importance of voter education and countering hate speech and disinformation,” diplomats said in their conference conclusions.
In January, a U.N.-backed forum representing Libya’s warring sides overwhelmingly authorized a new way of choosing a transitional government to hold nationwide elections in late December. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum voted 51-19 to approve an advisory committee’s proposal for selecting a unified executive authority that came out of a meeting days earlier in Geneva, the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, or UNSMIL, said in a statement.
Libya’s two main warring factions had agreed in November to hold nationwide elections for the presidency and parliament on December 24, 2021, with the aim of creating an effective and unified government. The scheduled date for elections is a public holiday that carries symbolic importance because it is the 70th anniversary of Libya declaring its independence from Britain and France in 1951.
That followed an October cease-fire agreement which called for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries sent by Russia, Turkey and other regional powers within 90 days.
In our view, 2 points are key to get closer to the goal of sustainable peace and stability in #Libya: 1. holding elections and 2. the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries. – FM @HeikoMaas after the 2nd Berlin Conference on Libya #Berlin2Libya 1/3 pic.twitter.com/Vlj62ey9NG
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) June 23, 2021
I spoke with Libyan Interim Foreign Minister Mangoush today about the upcoming June 23 Second Berlin Conference on Libya. The U.S. will work closely with the Libyan people, the @UN, and international partners to support national elections in December 2021.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) June 17, 2021
Withdrawal of foreign fighters
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that just two years earlier, a divided Libya was at risk of descending into a spiral of chaos and violence due to armed clashes between competing militias and a constant influx of arms. But “visible progress has since been made” with U.N. cooperation and the so-called Berlin Process, he said, including the October cease-fire which has held and the formation of a government of national unity.
“These developments are a success, and give the people of Libya cause for hope,” Maas said. “At the same time, many challenges still lie ahead of us. For the further stabilization of the country, it is crucial that elections take place as planned and that foreign fighters and mercenaries really do leave Libya. We will continue to work with the Libyan government and the United Nations to achieve these goals.”
Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush also noted progress in meeting the terms of the cease-fire agreement, saying “hopefully within the coming days mercenaries from both sides are going to be withdrawn.”
Oil-rich Libya has been split between rival governments and militias vying for power and oil revenues since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising deposed and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It has long been a migrant route for people trying often-dangerous Mediterranean routes to Europe mainly through Italy.