Libya Back on the Brink
As discussed in the past few days, the crisis in Libya appears to be edging closer to a turning point, for the better or the worse. Inside the country, in an attempt to erase the losses registered over the summer, Zintani and Haftar’s forces are re-organising themselves and coordinating their activities with institutions in Tobruk. Meanwhile, the Misratan-led camp enjoyed a crucial victory in the past week when the Central Bank, in a display of the de facto power enjoyed by the al-Hassi government, transferred funds to commercial banks for paying three months of family allowances.
In this context, Libya’s international partners should jump on this rare moment of military impasse and political balance to promote dialogue and direct negotiations between all parties, if necessary exerting pressure on their clients within the country. So far, Libya’s factions have in fact demonstrated not only a scarce appetite for compromise, but also a general deficit of negotiating and bargaining skills. International assistance will thus have to play a vital role in ensuring that upcoming talks will yield better results than the meager ones obtained during the first rounds of Ghamades’ talks. You can read more on the crucial international dimension of upcoming negotiations in a piece written by me and Karim Mezran, here at The Hill:
UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon has insisted that another meeting, this time inclusive of the rival military leaders, be convened as soon as possible. Algeria has offered to host such a meeting. (…) Unanimous approval from the United States and European countries is expected over the coming days. But the U.S. must do more than passively issue its support; it must lean on its regional allies to make the conference a success.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have so far been intransigent in their support of the anti-Islamists. They have been bombing Islamist arsenals but have failed to tip the scales. Washington ‘leaked’ its allies indiscretions, but has yet to pressure them to stop. Now it must do so. It should start with covert diplomacy. But if that fails overt threats must be made. Egypt and the UAE are staunch American allies — some might say clients. Obama possessed the tools to bring them into line. He must not be hesitant to deploy them.
Finding a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis will not be easy. The effort can succeed only with the wholehearted support of all the involved international actors — each pressuring their Libyan clients to buy into a negotiated – rather than an armed – resolution to the conflict. If handled correctly and inclusively, the Algerian-sponsored meetings could yield a decisive breakthrough.