Ceasefire or Escalation in Libya?
- Ben Fishman
- Content Type
- Policy Brief
- The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
- After the fall of Sirte, Erdogan and Putin’s desired ceasefire can only be achieved with Washington’s support.
Over the past week, regional and European actors have increased their diplomatic activity around Libya in
response to intensifying violence in the nine-month-old civil war. On January 8, less than a week after the Turkish
parliament approved sending forces to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul and called for a Libya ceasefire to begin
on January 12. Whether or not Moscow and Ankara manage to pause the violence temporarily, their growing
influence in Libya represents an epic failure of Western attempts to resolve the conflict diplomatically.
The longer-term effort to jumpstart Libya’s political transition requires a wider international effort at peace and
reconciliation—something Russia and Turkey can support but not lead. Putin and Erdogan seemed to acknowledge
that fact at their summit, endorsing a long-planned multilateral conference in Berlin aimed at recommitting all
relevant actors to support an end to hostilities and respect the UN Security Council’s mandatory but widely
ignored arms embargo. Even assuming Putin is serious and withdraws Russian mercenaries from the frontlines, a
full, lasting ceasefire cannot transpire until the other actors who support Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan
National Army (LNA) agree to withdraw their equipment and personnel for a fixed period while negotiations are
launched—especially the United Arab Emirates, which provides the LNA with critical air superiority. At the same
time, Turkey would have to take commensurate de-escalatory steps of its own.
The United States is the only actor that holds enough weight with all the foreign parties to bring about an
authentic ceasefire. Despite being consumed with crises in Iran and Iraq, Washington should expend the
diplomatic effort required to pursue durable stability in Libya before the country slips further toward endemic
- Diplomacy, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation
- Political Geography
- Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America