Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

Libya Berlin summit ends in pledge to enforce weapons embargo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted the summit, reiterated there could be no military resolution to the conflict

A high-level summit in Berlin aimed at ending Libya’s bitter civil war has concluded with a pledge to end the flow of weapons into the North African nation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted the conference of 11 nations, told reporters progress had been made to build towards peace in Libya following agreements she had been given in private by the leaders of the country’s two warring factions.

Libyan National Army (LNA) chief Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar and the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez Al Sarraj met with the German leader before the summit.

Both sides have said they will contribute to a “five by five” military council, Ms Merkel said. The body, comprised of five representatives from each side of the conflict, will meet for talks soon to discuss a longer-lasting ceasefire in Libya.

Despite Ms Merkel’s assurances that the talks had “achieved this result”, the conclusion of the summit was somewhat muted. Throughout the day expectations were lowered over what the discussions might achieve.

As the key international players in Libya’s years-long civil war gathered for a family photo at the chancellery in the German capital, flanking chancellor Angela Merkel, there were cautious smiles. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi clapped hands with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as the leaders carefully shuffled into place.

Conspicuously absent from the group photo were Libya’s rival leaders. The two men have repeatedly refused to be in the same room as one another. The presence of so many international heavyweights present in Berlin to discuss Libya: particularly Mr Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who have both suddenly become the principal geopolitical weather makers in the region, belied the ultimate outcome of the talks.

The UAE's Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, stressed the importance of an Arab presence at the summit.

"The presence of Egypt, Algeria, the Emirates and the Arab League is a necessary guarantee that the Arab dimension is present and strong in the endeavour to search for peace and stability in this brotherly Arab country," he wrote on Twitter.

"Marginalisation of the Arab role, as is the case in Syria, was a cruel lesson that will not be repeated."

European leaders, increasingly sidelined by Russia and Turkey, have looked to use the summit to try and regain the initiative. French President Emmanuel Macron took aim at Turkey in his address to the conference saying the presence of Syrian and foreign forces in Tripoli should end immediately.

Hundreds of Syrian fighters have been deployed to bolster forces supporting the GNA. The troop movement comes in the wake of a deal agreed to by Tripoli and Ankara granting Turkey access to maritime areas believed to be rich in natural gas reserves.

UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attend a press conference on the International Libya Conference in Berlin, Germany, 19 January 2020. Getty Images
UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attend a press conference on the International Libya Conference in Berlin, Germany, 19 January 2020. Getty Images

As he arrived in Berlin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Sky News UK forces could be part of a peacekeeping force in Libya if a ceasefire was agreed. 10 Downing Street briefed Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had met on the side of the conference to discuss the need for the end to the fighting and for all parties to support the peace talks.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who also attended the summit in Berlin, told reporters on Sunday that America was committed to "a political resolution" in the wartorn country.

"America has a counterterrorism interest there. There are important energy opportunities there in Libya," he said.

Participants pose for a group photo at an international summit on securing peace in Libya at the Chancellery on January 19, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Getty
Participants pose for a group photo at an international summit on securing peace in Libya at the Chancellery on January 19, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Getty

As international leaders called for de-escalation in Libya, there was a sharp disconnect with the situation on the ground. The summit was overshadowed by an intervention by LNA forces at the major oil fields of El Sharara and El Feel in the south of the country.

Commenting on the closure of the oil fields, Mr Pompeo said: "One of the things I did mention is that we hope that the closure that had taken place – the closure of some of the crude oil getting out – we hope that will be opened up as a result of this conversation as well."

Updated: January 20, 2020 12:27 PM

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