Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Courtesy)

A Last Chance to Stop the Libyan Crisis

Al-Etihad, UAE, June 18

Too many opportunities have been lost over the past decade to stop the ongoing crisis in Libya. However, the recently-issued Cairo Declaration, drawn up in between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and leaders of the Libyan National Army [led by renegade general Khalifa Haftar] presents a real, and perhaps final, opportunity to save Libya. Turkish intervention in Libya exacerbated the civil war unfolding in the country and pushed violence to unprecedented levels. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is eyeing Libya’s gas and oil in an effort to compensate for the loss of lives among his militias. The Egyptian initiative wasn’t born out of thin air. Rather, it is a direct continuation of previous diplomatic initiatives aimed at establishing a permanent ceasefire in Libya. It is built upon the same tenets proposed by former UN envoy Ghassan Salama in September 2017, the Paris Conference held in May 2018, and the Berlin Conference held in November 2019. The Cairo Declaration builds on ideas and proposals that were included in previous initiatives, yet provides new approaches to ending the bloodshed, chief of which is the formation of a Libyan Presidential Council. Under the Egyptian initiative, this Council will be elected through electoral assemblies in each of the three regions that make up Libya: Barqa, Fezzan, and Tripoli. This will not only provide greater representation for the Libyan people, but also ensure that tribal leaders are involved and that the United Nations directly observes the electoral process. In order to avoid any misinterpretation of this mechanism, the declaration reaffirms Libya’s sovereignty and independence, and calls for the dismantling of all militias and the expulsion of foreign mercenaries who represent foreign interests and pose a grave danger to the country. Unfortunately, Libya’s Government of National Accord already rejected this proposal, relying, this time, on Turkey’s backing. That said, the widespread Arab and international support for the Cairo Declaration is undermining Erdogan’s calculus, forcing the Libyan government back to the negotiating table. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s regime will seek to undermine the declaration in any way possible while exploiting the political turmoil to advance his grip over Libya. Therefore, the only way to save Libya at this point – perhaps for the last time – is to build an international consensus in support of Egypt’s initiative backed not only by Arab countries, but also by the UN Security Council. This will provide the Cairo Declaration with the legal backing and legitimacy it needs to force the warring parties to accept a ceasefire and end one of the region’s most protracted crises. – Waheed Abdul Majeed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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