Berlin Libya Conference (II)

Experts voice skepticism about the results of the Berlin Libya Conference. Oil blockade escalates in Libya.

BERLIN/TRIPOLI (Own report) - Experts voice skepticism about the results of the Berlin Libya Conference. In the German capital, the heads of states and governments of the major countries involved in the Libyan war adopted a resolution yesterday providing, in particular, for a ceasefire, the implementation of an arms embargo and initial steps toward the reestablishment of the Libyan state. However, a formal ceasefire and a mechanism to enforce the arms embargo are absent, according to the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think-tank. The Berlin Conference took place "in a sort of parallel reality to what is actually happening in Libya," Wolfram Lacher, a Libya scholar at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) noted. New indications of a military escalation were reported yesterday and it appears that nearly the entire oil production is being throttled. German foreign policy politicians are discussing an EU military intervention involving also the Bundeswehr.

With Russian-Turkish Help

A comprehensive resolution was adopted at the end of yesterday's Berlin Libya Conference. The German government has been planning this conference since last fall but was only able to hold it after Russia and Turkey had created the key prerequisites by compelling a ceasefire a week ago. Over the past year, Moscow and Ankara were able to significantly increase their influence on one or the other warring parties in Libya. ( reported.[1]) In addition to the Presidents of Russia and Turkey, the conference's participants included the heads of states and governments of France, Italy, Great Britain, Egypt, Algeria, the Republic of Congo (as Chair of the African Union's High-Level Committee on Libya) as well as the foreign ministers of the United States and the United Arab Emirates and representatives of other countries. The crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, considered its de facto strongman, had met with the German chancellor already on Saturday and left Berlin before the conference began. Also present were Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of the Libyan "Government of National Accord" and his powerful opponent Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA).

"No Interference"

In the resolution all participants agreed on a ceasefire, the implementation of an arms embargo and initial steps toward the reestablishment of the Libyan state. They declared for example, "we commit to refraining from interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya."[2] The undersigned call for "the termination of all military movements by, or in direct support of, the conflict parties," and for "a comprehensive process of demobilization and disarmament of armed groups and militias." The participants of the Berlin Conference "commit to unequivocally and fully respect and implement" the UN arms embargo against Libya and refrain from the "financing of military capabilities or the recruitment of mercenaries." "Against those who are found to be in breach of the arms embargo or the ceasefire," the UN Security Council must be called upon to impose or implement sanctions. The participants also call for "the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives." To control the implementation of the Berlin agreements, an International Follow-Up Committee (IFC) will be created and will meet on a regular basis.

Parallel Realities

Experts are skeptical. It was pointed out that in Berlin, Sarraj and Haftar were not even in agreement to be present in the same room, let alone to negotiate with one another. Wolfram Lacher, a scholar on Libya at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) located in Berlin, reported that even though the Libyan parties involved had essentially known the contents of the resolutions adopted in Berlin yesterday for over a month, they had merely "sent more weapons and mercenaries, to Libya." “So the words of heads of states don't really count for much."[3] Considering the discrepancy between repeated commitments to non-interference and the actual warring parties' arms buildups, Lacher wryly commented already on Saturday, that "the Berlin Conference is taking place in a sort of parallel reality to what is actually happening in Libya."[4] For the German government, the occasion was "at least a prestige event," which "does not happen that often." "Concrete results" are, however, "not to be expected." Whereas "the Russian-Turkish initiative" offered at least the possibility of "having compliance with the ceasefire monitored by joint surveillance troops," the Berlin Conference resolution lacks "the concrete means to stop Haftar and provide guarantees to the parties to the conflict."

"Perhaps even with Soldiers"

This is why, even before the conference began, demands were raised for an EU military mission to Libya. Last Friday, the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell was the first to state such a position. Borrell pointed to the fact that "during the past six months ... Turkey and Russia had massively enhanced their influence in Libya" and are now using it to "implement a temporary ceasefire." Though this is "good news for the Libyan people," it, however, is "not exactly confirmation of the EU's growing influence." Therefore, the Union must do more. For example, it must "be prepared," to participate in "the implementation and monitoring of a ceasefire" perhaps "even with soldiers, for example within the framework of an EU mission."[5] In addition, there is the arms embargo. In fact, formally, it is the task of NATO's Mediterranean "Sea Guardian" operation, to support or even take "measures on the high seas, to implement the UN arms embargo" imposed on Libya.[6] "In truth, the arms embargo is ineffective," admits Borrell. Currently 237 German soldiers are active in the Sea Guardian mission. Of course, if they would actually enforce the supply boycott, against Libya, they would find themselves in an awkward situation, if they, for example, would be called upon to inspect ships of NATO member Turkey, and apprehend their crews for violation of the embargo. Until now, this has not happened.

"Military Mission not Excluded"

Over the weekend, the demand for an EU military mission in Libya was picked up by numerous politicians. The Prime Minister of Libya's Government of National Accord, Fayez al Sarraj, spoke in favor of a "protection force" within a UN framework, wherein both the Arab League and the EU could participate.[7] Greece's Prime Minister Kyiákos Mitsotákis as well as Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced, they were prepared to send Greek and Italian soldiers on an EU mission. Saturday, Germany's Minister of the Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also announced that, should a ceasefire be decided, the Bundeswehr and defense ministry would "very quickly be able to say how they can contribute." She said, it is completely normal for Germany "to handle the question, what can we contribute?"[8] In parliament support was expressed from both government parties as well as those of the opposition. "Of course, Germany should be open-minded about such a mission," declared the SPD foreign policy parliamentarian Christoph Matschie. The CDU foreign policy parliamentarian Roderich Kiesewetter was quoted having said, the EU needs to "examine its options, to be able to make Libya a credible offer of support and to bring itself back into play as an active and capable actor in relationship to Russia and the regional powers." Even the Green foreign policy politician, Omid Nouripour is open-minded in relationship to a military intervention. "It would be unwise to rule out from the start a European mission in Libya."[9]

The Oil Blockade

In the meantime, new indications of a military escalation are being reported from Libya. With a blockade of Libya's eastern oil shipping ports, already on Friday, Haftar's LNA - with around 80 percent of Libya's oil deposits under its control - had throttled the country's oil production from 1.3 million barrels down to 500,000 barrels per day. Yesterday, his troops, shut down an oil pipeline, which meant approximately another 400,000 barrels of production per day going offline.[10] Signs of renewed military escalations are also being reported. A relaxation of tensions is nowhere on the horizon.


[1] See also The German-Russian Treasure and Die Berliner Libyen-Konferenz.

[2] Berliner Libyen-Konferenz: Schlussfolgerungen der Konferenz. Berlin, 19.01.2020.

[3] Sudarsan Raghavan, Loveday Morris: Global leaders promise to respect arms embargo on Libya, but fail to secure lasting cease fire. 19.01.2020.

[4] Dietmar Pieper: "Eine Art Parallelrealität". 18.01.2020.

[5] Markus Becker, Christiane Hoffmann, Peter Müller: "Wir müssen unsere Interessen stärker durchsetzen - notfalls robust". 17.01.2020.

[6] Antrag der Bundesregierung: Beteiligung bewaffneter deutscher Streitkräfte an der NATO-geführten Maritimen Sicherheitsoperation Sea Guardian im Mittelmeer. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 18/9632. 15.09.2016.

[7] Daniel-Dylan Böhmer, Nasser Jubara: "Die Europäer kommen zu spät". 19.01.2020.

[8], [9] Eckart Lohse, Matthias Rüb, Frank Pergande: Kommt es zum deutschen Militäreinsatz in Nordafrika? 19.01.2020.

[10] Tobias Buck, Heba Saleh: Foreign powers vow to halt interference in Libya conflict. 19.01.2020.