Prospects for deals between Libyan rival factions
On 10 March, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, met with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, at the German Chancellery in Berlin to discuss the current state of play in Libya. Markel is reported to have said that “there is no military resolution to crisis”, adding “that is why we’re working to maintain the ceasefire and make progress in the political process according to Berlin understandings.” Merkel called on Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement with the Government of National Accord (GNA). The meeting between Merkel and Haftar gave no indication as to any shift in Germany’s stance on Libya – it appears set on maintaining the approach it signalled at the Berlin conference, namely to assist the UN process. The aim of the meeting with Haftar was likely to reiterate to him that, despite a flagging UN process and presence following Salame’s resignation, Germany is still committed to pursuing a ceasefire and political process in Libya.
Following, on 16 and 17 February, the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Minister of Interior, Fathi Bashaagha, travelled to France to hold meetings with his French counterpart, Christophe Castaner. This comes after a series of meetings in the UK. On 11 March, Bashaagha spoke to a group of British parliamentarians in London where he called on the UK to play a larger role in Libya’s security and development sectors. Bashaagha’s French meeting with French Minister Castaner occurred after Haftar met with President Macron on 9 March in Paris.
It seems unlikely that an implementable deal – whether a ceasefire or a broader political agreement – between Bashaagha and Haftar will be achieved in the immediate term, though there are indications that both sides are increasingly open to engagement with one another. It is more likely that some sort of deal could be brokered between Bashaagha and Haftar in the coming months than between Serraj and Haftar. However, the challenges to achieving any such deal remain significant. These include: the process by which such a dialogue or negotiation is facilitated and by whom – France appears keen to take on this role but there is a lack of genuine trust in Paris’ intentions among many GNA-aligned groups; the difficulties of achieving widespread buy-in to any possible deal among different components of both coalitions, but particularly within the anti-LNA coalition; and the instability, mistrust and polarisation among both Libyan and foreign actors due to the ongoing conflict on the ground. Finally, the global COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly likely to divert both the attention and the political and financial resources of international actors away from Libya and a peace process in the immediate – short term, undermining the chances of a meaningful deal being facilitated any time soon.