Meeting in Paris: Libya conference calls for elections

Status: 11/12/2021 9:06 p.m.

Despite the ceasefire, tensions persist in Libya. This is not least due to the military presence of foreign powers. Elections are planned for December – the international community wants to ensure that they do not fail.

After years of civil war, the international community in Libya, in North Africa, aims to achieve a change towards democracy, security and stability. That is why the participants in a Libya conference in Paris insisted on holding the elections planned for the end of December as well as on the agreed withdrawal of foreign mercenaries and military personnel.

It is about seizing the chance for peace, appealed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the beginning of the conference. The elections are a crucial step on the way to peace and stability.

Conference excluding Russia and Turkey

In addition to the Executive Chancellor Angela Merkel, US Vice President Kamala Harris and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi also took part in the conference in Paris. Libya’s neighbors Tunisia, Algeria, Niger and Chad as well as other countries were also invited. Libya was represented by interim head of government Abdelhamid Dbeibah and the chairman of the presidential council, Mohammed Junes Menfi.

France, Italy and Germany shared the chairmanship of the conference, and the United Nations were also involved. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin were absent. Both countries have been criticized for their military presence in Libya.

Presidential election planned for the end of December

After the overthrow of long-term ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, Libya sank into a civil war in which numerous actors were involved. A ceasefire has been in place since October 2020. Nevertheless, according to UN estimates, there are still 20,000 foreign forces deployed in Libya – jihadist groups, Turkish soldiers, foreign fighters from Chad, Sudan and Syria, and the Russian mercenary troop Wagner.

This spring, under UN mediation, a transitional government was formed to lead the country to elections. The first round of the presidential election is scheduled for December 24th. The parliament was actually supposed to be elected on the same day – this is also what a United Nations timetable provided. Now the vote could not take place until mid-February, along with a likely second round of the presidential election. Due to ongoing tensions and political conflicts, however, it is unclear whether the election will actually take place in the next few months.

Elections are a “historic goal”

“The international community stands by Libya,” emphasized Executive Chancellor Angela Merkel at the conference. The December 24 elections played a crucial role. “I hope that the preparation for the elections will be completed in such a way that the result will be recognized.” Security is a prerequisite for holding elections. That is why it is important that the withdrawal of foreign mercenaries does not only take place on paper. A first group of 300 fighters from neighboring countries should withdraw soon, it said.

“We have to make sure that there are free and fair elections,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. Libya has committed itself to accepting the election result, no matter how it turns out.

This commitment was confirmed by Libya’s Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbaiba at the end of the Paris Conference. It is a “historic goal” to meet the election date in order to achieve peace and stability. International election observers and sanctions are needed for those who may not want to recognize the elections. Influential Islamists in the country had announced that they would not recognize the elections for fear of losing power.

Intermediaries pursue their own interests

The conflicting parties in Libya continue to be supported by foreign powers: Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are allied with the powerful General Khalifa Haftar, who controls large areas in the east and south with his troops. Turkish troops are deployed in the west, brought into the country by the former government to prevent Haftar from advancing to Tripoli.

The Federal Republic is considered to be an important mediator in the conflict. Germany is also pursuing its own interests: There are important routes through Libya for refugees who are looking for their way across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Their fate deserves more attention, said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. “Something has to be done to help the migrants,” he said, referring to the dramatic situation of refugees stranded in Libya.

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