Sarraj’s peace proposal sets scene for renewed diplomatic push
Khalifa Haftar’s sudden willingness to engage with the UN and equivocally set out his political position in an interview, which is a rare event in itself, follows Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s launch of a new peace initiative on 16 June, which inside sources indicate was pre-planned with the US.
According to insiders, Sarraj’s initiative revolves around 3 key points:
- It completely disregards Khalifa Haftar and the leadership of the Libyan National Army (LNA). It also abandons the Sarraj-Haftar peace ticket started by France during the La Celle Saint-Cloud meeting in 2017 and pursued in the Abu Dhabi meeting in 2019 – days before Haftar launched his offensive on the capital.
- It purposefully fails to provide specific details and instead highlights a general political process which will include a national conference and elections. The peace initiative avoids politicising any actor or dictating the content of such a process because it would undermine the current cohesion of the anti-LNA coalition.
- It stresses Libya’s role as a key ally of the US in combating terrorism, adding that this role is a source of international legitimacy and credibility. This stance is a direct challenge to Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s current monopoly over US patronage and influence to countries in the region.
Sarraj’s effort to push for a ceasefire and new political negotiations appears to be a high-level strategic move designed to ensure his political survival and that of the GNA rather than reflecting a genuine attempt to reach a ceasefire or enter political negotiations. While both Sarraj and Haftar appear to be going through the motions of diplomatic engagement in response to this international shift, the conditions laid out by both are predicated on their forces winning the conflict, not on finding a negotiated end to it. In reality, the depth and vitriol of political polarisation in Libya at present mean neither Haftar nor Sarraj could agree to grant the concessions that would be required to reach a ceasefire, otherwise they would lose their support base and their leadership positions, while their loosely aligned forces carried on fighting.