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The Libyan Crisis and the Ingredients for a Successful Negotiation

Al-Etihad, UAE, September 25

At a time when efforts are being made to find a political resolution to the Libyan crisis, it is imperative that we all take time to recall the fundamental ingredients required for the success of any negotiation, regardless of where it happens, based on previous experiences in the field. Over the years, countries have sought to solve internal, regional and international crises, leading to extensive knowledge on strategies, methods and approaches that work better than others. According to these experiences, negotiators achieve positive results, and negotiations lead to an attainable compromise when several prerequisites are met. First, that both sides come to the negotiation table with good intentions and a true interest in achieving a resolution to their crisis. Second, that the two sides establish a genuine foundation on which they can build their relationship. Third, that all issues, even the most contentious, are discussed and explored. The first precondition, negotiation on the basis of good intentions, is important due to the fact that it is the existence of these intentions that guarantees the behavior of the two parties both during the talks as well as during the implementation phase. The second precondition relates to the need to understand from the very outset, even before the talks begin, what the negotiation path will look like, and which landmines will need to be defused. The third precondition is crucial in order to prevent a deceiving sense of progress at a time when core issues have not yet been agreed upon. In the context of Libya, one thing stands in direct conflict to all three of these conditions: the existence of foreign militias, fueled and armed by a foreign actor within Libya. The presence of Turkey-backed militias in Libya, which defies the national military, has been at the core of every round of failed negotiations held in the country to date. Accordingly, and based on the rich experience gained by negotiators in other conflicts, the only way to reach a viable solution to the Libyan crisis is to dismantle the armed militias operating in the country. Not putting this issue on the table first and beginning, instead, with the less contentious issues has allowed both sides to procrastinate and give the world a false sense of cooperation and dialogue. Instead of explicitly calling out those who are preventing an agreement, ignoring the militia issue allows the parties to circumvent the topic without being accused of rejecting negotiations. Therefore, as the winds of change begin to sweep Libya and the possibility of direct peace talks once again emerges, it is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past. We must pay attention to our previous negotiation experiences and ensure that this time, the Libyan peace talks succeed in ending years of war and bloodshed. – Wahid Abdul Majeed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)