Libya: Armed Politics and Regional Escalation
Chatham House has published a summary of discussions entitled ‘Libya: Armed Politics and Regional Escalation’ that took place during an invitation-only Libya Working Group meeting hosted by the think tank in December 2014. The discussion emphasised that the Libyan conflict is best considered in terms of ‘armed politics’ rather than civil war and focused on the need for more decisive international support to ensure that dialogue stands a chance of success. The main points were as follows:
1. The civil war is set to continue, with extensive human rights violations. The prospects for a negotiated end to the fighting are currently poor.
2. Libya is too important to be allowed to become a failed state at the centre of the Mediterranean area.
3. International mediation to re-establish peace and set up a transition leading to elections is essential but is currently stalled. Western countries’ lack of focus on Libya at this stage is already having negative consequences for regional and European security.
4. The struggle is for power and wealth, situated within a complex web of social, religious, tribal, regional, and ideological ties and identities. Religion is only one among many drivers.
5. Since neither side can defeat the other, an inclusive political approach is required in which both the governments in Tobruk and Tripoli, and their supporting groups, take part.
6. Invigorating the UN-led mediation will be hard but an approach should be tried that entails convening a conference of the parties and their international backers. Such an approach should also involve greater incentives to persuade the parties to join a ceasefire. Dialogue and negotiation should be attempted on terms generally acceptable to the international community – including the possibility of further sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes.
7. Only a national unity government ought to be accorded full international legitimacy and recognition.
8. Intervention from outside the country is making the conflict worse. The EU, US and UN should do more to dissuade the countries that are intervening in the fighting from doing so.