Reports suggest Qatar excluded from upcoming Berlin conference by Egypt and UAE
Over the course of the past week, reports suggested that the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Minister of Interior, Fathi Bashagha, has been having secret meetings with French officials in order to reach a settlement to the Tripoli conflict. Through mediators, Bashagha has allegedly been working with significant figures in the East in order to find common ground to end the fighting. On 3 October, several reports emerged claiming that Egypt and the UAE have successfully lobbied to have Qatar excluded from the Berlin conference on Libya, slated for November. No date for the conference has been publically released, and it remains unclear who will make up the international and domestic delegations.
International allies of the Libyan National Army (LNA) – namely France, Egypt and the UAE – appear to be pre-cooking the Berlin conference on Libya to ensure that it proceeds on the terms that best serves the LNA’s interests. While constructive dialogue between rival Libyan parties is key to the Berlin conference achieving a tangible outcome, how those talks are organised, who participates in them and who mediates them are all very important. If international and Libyan actors perceive that the parameters of the talks have already been pre-arranged by the pro-LNA alliance in their favour, this is likely to significantly undermine the chances of the talks achieving an end to the fighting and a way forward.
For the LNA General Command, they may interpret this stacking of the deck in their favour as support for their demands that Tripoli must be ‘liberated’ before a new political process can be agreed. For Sarraj and the GNA, the exclusion of Qatar and secret French-mediated talks between Bashagha and the East is indicative of the GNA losing international traction and becoming increasingly isolated. As the Berlin conference draws near, the GNA is likely to push harder for conditions which swing greater negotiating leverage back to its side. This is likely to an intensification of conflict, at least in Tripoli, in the lead up to the conference and could undermine the longer-term chances of success for the Berlin talks.