BERLIN – In the interests of Libya’s protracted civil war, world powers and other nations agreed on Sunday to honor a multi-pronged arms embargo, cut off military support to the warring parties and push them to reach a full ceasefire, German and UN leaders said.
The agreement was reached after nearly four hours of negotiations at the Chancellery in Berlin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited leaders from 11 countries, including Libya’s two main rival leaders, in the German capital but not at the main conference table.
The organizers knew that “we must succeed in speaking with one voice to all parties involved in the Libyan conflict in any way possible, because then the Libyan internal parties will realize that there is only one non-military way to resolve it,” Merkel said. “We have achieved this result here.”
Libya has been plunged into more chaos since the 2011 overthrow and assassination of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It is now divided into rival administrations, each supported by a different nation: the UN-recognized government is based in Tripoli, headed by the sovereign, and a country to the east, supported by Hefter’s forces.
Heftar’s forces have been on the offensive since April, besieging Tripoli in an attempt to seize the capital. Heftar’s forces are backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, while the Tripoli government has returned to Turkey for troops and weapons.
A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey earlier this month marked the first ceasefire in months, but has been repeatedly violated.
Among those present on Sunday were Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Participants agreed that “we want to respect arms embargoes, and arms embargoes will be more tightly regulated than in the past,” Merkel said. He added that the outcome of the conference should be approved by the UN Security Council.
Libya’s two main rival leaders, Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar, have each named five members of a military committee that will represent them in talks on a more permanent ceasefire, Merkel said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the committee would be convened “in Geneva the next day”.
Merkel said the summit participants agreed that they would no longer support the warring parties in Libya before the committee meeting and would “suspend operations as long as there is a ceasefire.”
However, there was no clear commitment to withdraw existing military support. Merkel said it was a question of a real ceasefire.
He said the conference did not discuss specific sanctions for violating the arms embargo.
The summit’s final statement said participants “would escalate the conflict against all actors or call on the United Nations to refrain from any activity that is inconsistent with the arms embargo or ceasefire, including funding military capabilities or hiring mercenaries.”
Guterres said the Berlin conference had succeeded in avoiding “real regional growth risks”.
“That risk was avoided in Berlin – but of course, it is possible to maintain the ceasefire and then go to the ceasefire,” he said.
Guterres stressed the urgency of the next step, saying all participants were “committed to putting pressure on the parties to reach a full ceasefire.”
“We cannot observe anything that does not exist,” Guterres said.
Merkel added that participants would continue to hold regular meetings to ensure that the process continues “so that the Libyan people have the right to a peaceful life.”
Sarraj and Hifter did not meet in Berlin.
“We spoke to them individually because the differences between them are so great that they are not talking to each other at the moment,” Merkel said.
The two men were not direct participants in the conference, but were in Berlin and were aware of the development, he added.
“We know that today’s signature is not enough,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Moss.
He said countries that were not invited on Sunday would be given the opportunity to attend future meetings of four committees working on various aspects of the crisis between their military problems and the economy.
“We know the work has just begun,” Mas said.
On Sunday, Libya’s National Oil Corporation said guards under the command of Hifter’s forces had closed two main oil fields in the country’s southwestern desert, after previously closing all eastern export terminals. Only offshore areas and a small facility are open, the corporation said.
Guterres said he was “very concerned” about oil development. Germany’s Maas says he and Merkel have discussed the blocked terminal with Sarraj and Heftar.
“Both sides have stated that they are ready in principle to find a solution,” he said, adding that “this depends on a number of conditions.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the conference was “very useful”.
Pompeope said that “I think we have made progress – at least progress in getting new weapons, less new forces in the region so that we can have at least a stalemate,” given the opportunity to work towards a political solution.
The Berlin Agreement was immediately met with some skepticism, though.
Anas Gamati, founder of a Tripoli-based organization, said: “This is a very good discussion and photography, but there are still no measures in place to actively prevent a country from violating the arms embargo.”
Claudia Gazini, a Libyan analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the idea of a “military committee” was new and certainly one step ahead of where we were in Moscow last week. .
“But in Libya there is a tendency for delays to be synonymous with committees,” he added. “I think there will be a lot of whimsy.”
The Associated Press journalist in Cairo, Isabel Debre, contributed to this report.
Frank Jordans and Gair Molson, Associated Press