Calls for return to political dialogue grow, including from Haftar’s backers
On 19 May, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated on Twitter that in order to make progress on the Libyan crisis, “an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire and a return to the political process” is required. He also said that Libya would have no future until “combatants aim higher than tactical territorial gains.”
On 19 May, acting UN Special Envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, called on the UN Security Council to pressure international players in Libya to cease their support of the competing Libyan factions, stressing that the increase in foreign fighters and military capabilities in Libya would see clashes escalate further and the humanitarian situation worsen. She highlighted the direct involvement of foreign parties in the current conflict, including UAVs and the presence on the ground of air defence systems, in blatant violation of the arms embargo. Williams welcomed the new political initiative proposed by House of Representatives (HoR) head Aqeela Saleh in late April and the constructive stance adopted by GNA head Fayez al-Serraj, while condemning Haftar’s declaration of military rule.
In a conversation on 20 May, US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron noted “worsening foreign interference” in Libya and “agreed on the need for urgent de-escalation,” according to the White House.
On 20 May, Russia and Turkey called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Libya and the resumption of the political process under the auspices of the United Nations and within the framework of the Berlin Conference.
The statements from the UAE – the LNA’s main military backer – in support of a ceasefire indicate a shift in the UAE stance on Libya. According to media reports quoting a Libyan political source close to Haftar, the UAE and Egypt see Haftar as being “on his way out” and that “no one can bet on Haftar again”. This apparent shift in approach by the LNA’s main foreign backers towards supporting a new political initiative in Libya indicates they are positioning themselves for Haftar to be defeated – as such are manoeuvring themselves and potentially creating/identifying new eastern Libyan “clients” to maintain influence and leverage in both eastern Libya and the wider country in a post-Haftar environment. However, this does not mean that these countries will drop their support of the LNA as an institution nor change their ideological and strategic aims in Libya. As such, any new political initiative that might emerge from this development is likely to be strongly influenced by international dynamics and interests, and therefore will face the same challenges as previous initiatives. This international tug of war over Libya also means that the interests of the country itself and its people are unlikely to be a priority.