Representatives of the two opposing parties in Libya – the Government based in Tripoli and the Parliament based in Tobruk (in the east of the country) – have sealed a permanent ceasefire agreement in Geneva on Friday. The signature implies as a more concrete and difficult element to execute the departure of all foreign mercenaries within 90 days. Tripoli is supported by Turkey, which has deployed Turkish soldiers and officers on the ground, has subcontracted Syrian mercenaries and trains Libyan forces. And the eastern faction, whose most visible head is Marshal Khalifa Hafter , is supported by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In his field there are thousands of Russian mercenaries from the Warner company – never recognized by the Kremlin – and also Sudanese.
The acting UN representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, mediator of the negotiations, declared at a press conference in Geneva: “This is a complete and permanent national agreement with immediate effect.” Both sides had agreed on Wednesday to open all roads and air connections . And Williams declared at the time to be very optimistic about the signing of a permanent ceasefire. Now it remains to negotiate, among other broad lines, the creation of a unity government and the assignment of senior positions in the main financial institutions of the country. The next talks between the two sides will be held in November in neighboring Tunisia.
In fact, since June there had been no more confrontations between the two sides. And in August another ceasefire had been signed in Tunis , with representatives from both sides in Tunis. But the country with the largest oil reserves in Africa continues to attract the interest of many powers with competing interests. Turkey continues to consolidate its presence in the Libyan base of Watiyah. And it’s hard to believe that Russia will easily renounce the enormous influence wielded by its 2,500 mercenaries. That makes some analysts show moderate optimism and caution about the future.
“Today’s ceasefire is not an earthquake, as there has not been a major exchange of fire since June. And there has already been another ceasefire announced on August 21 by representatives of the two sides. But the important thing is that the UN has found quite a positive negotiating dynamic with its Libyan and foreign counterparts. If the application of what has been signed continues rigorously, the UN may reach the goal before the end of the year. A crucial step will be the creation of a national government recognized throughout Libya, ”says Jalel Harchaoui, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, by phone.
For his part, Wolfram Lacher, an analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, tweeted a message in which he indicated that the text of the agreement provides few details and there are no references to specific zones of demilitarization.
The intervention of the international community has been key in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion. One of its great promoters was the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, who organized the Berlin Conference in January , where the main heads of state with influence over Libya met. Among them were the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Turkish, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The latter shed a veil of hopelessness over the firms on Wednesday. He declared that the agreement does not seem “reliable” to him, because it had not been signed “at the highest level. “Time will tell if it will last. For me [the agreement] lacks credibility, ”he said.
Negotiations to lay the foundations for peace were divided in Berlin into three fields: economic, political and security. Security was entrusted to the 5 + 5 Joint Military Commission, with five Libyan representatives from each side. This commission has been in charge of signing the ceasefire, after four rounds held since February in Geneva. Eight months of discussions have been necessary to initiate – or at least promise – the eviction of the mercenaries in Libya.