Haftar and Serraj Agree to Elections, Ceasefire and Political Reconciliation in Paris
On 25 July, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a meeting between Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the Presidential Council (PC), and Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) at La Celle-Saint-Cloud outside Paris. The meeting was attended by Ghassan Salamé, the newly appointed Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Libya. In a joint statement, France said the aim of this initiative is to contribute to drawing up a political solution and helping the Libyans strengthen the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement to make it more effective and inclusive.
The Libyan parties present adopted a declaration in which they agreed to ten key points, all of which can be read here. The main points included a commitment to a political solution, commitment to a ceasefire and only using force for counter-terror purposes, holding presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible, and integrating all fighters who wish into regular Libyan armed forces. In an interview with France 24, Serraj said that, “Fears about the security situation are fully justified. Organising these elections will require real political, security and logistical preparations. There must be a common effort to ensure their success.”
The joint statement was keen to stress that this initiative was in the framework of the Skhirat Agreement and that it takes into account the initiatives of the international organizations working on Libya as well as ‘Libya’s friend countries and partners in recent months, particularly Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Tunisia and Italy’. However, the meeting has already ruffled several Italian feathers, with various Italian politicians and media outlets blasting the French move, despite ‘comforting’ remarks by France, amid fears that it will be ousted from its traditional position leading European diplomacy on Libya.
While this meeting is undoubtedly of symbolic significance, it remains unclear exactly what this agreement will mean in practical terms, especially given Libyan agreements have a habit of being made on paper and never being implemented on the ground. Firstly, the agreement of a ‘ceasefire’ means little given there is currently no active fighting between GNA-aligned forces or LNA-aligned forces. Secondly, the commitment to only use forces against ‘terrorists’ also means little given that Haftar’s entire military campaign since 2014 has relied on declaring all enemies as terrorists. Thirdly, although Serraj and Haftar have agreed to support the efforts of the new UN Envoy, to include the House of Representatives and the High Council of State, and to continue the dialogue, there are no indications of how these commitments might translate into reality. Serraj and Haftar are only two people and do not speak for, let alone control the actions of, many of the militias and power brokers on the ground. Indeed, the key faction that appears to have been excluded from this meeting is Misrata and there is likely to be a backlash against it on the ground, particularly in western Libya. Finally, there are many questions over why Haftar has finally agreed to commit to a political solution to the Libyan crisis when he has advocated a military solution for so long. By attending this meeting, Haftar has increased his international credibility and standing, assuring his place as a key power broker for Libyan politics despite holding no political position in Libya. This is something that will surely work in his favour as and when the planned presidential elections are eventually held.