The surrender of a pledge without a fight was not expected, given the nature of the people driving it and its mountainous geographical topography, which gives it natural immunity. But this also does not represent an anomaly. The parties to the conflict have already controlled several cities without a fight, either by handing them over or changing the loyalties of their leaders. Currently, a new municipal council, set up by Al-Wefaq, is preparing a day before to run the city.
In parallel with the military developments, an international political movement is taking place. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by phone with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, at night, and stressed “the need for a ceasefire in Libya and a return to political negotiations.”
On Thursday, Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter headed to Cairo to discuss the next steps, and it appears from the statements of the American Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, that Egypt is “ready to play a constructive role” after “realizing that the approach (which it adopted) had failed”.
On the same day, the Prime Minister of the “National Accord”, Fayez al-Sarraj, went to Ankara to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The man seemed excited, talking about their intention to “take over the entire country”, but that did not seem workable, at least for now. On Wednesday, Al-Sarraj sent his deputy, Ahmad Maitiq, to Moscow, where he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and although many details were not leaked, the issue of the arrest of two Russians in Libya accused of attempting to influence political life was discussed, and the negotiation may also include hostages from the Wagner company Al-Wefaq did not announce them, and it seems that there will be developments in the file, as Moutiq hinted, but that will not be free of charge.
There was no major development, but it was inconclusive in determining the destination of the country
Whether it comes to meetings in Egypt, Turkey, Russia, or moves by the United States, the conclusions of all of this are politically oriented within the framework of the mechanisms produced by the Berlin Conference on Libya, which brings together all these forces and others. The UN-sponsored military dialogue mechanism went into effect early this month, and it includes a committee of 5 soldiers representing each side.
In a statement, the UN mission said it hoped the dialogue would mark “the beginning of a calm on the ground and a humanitarian truce to allow the opportunity for a final ceasefire” to be reached. According to the statements of the American ambassador, on Thursday, a first video meeting took place between the mission and the team representing Marshal Hifter, while the conversation with the team representing the “Al-Wefaq” government is expected in the next two days, provided that the transition will later take place to direct negotiations between the two parties.
But this is not the first time that discussions have taken place within this mechanism, and it led the last time to a temporary truce without a written agreement followed by a larger military escalation. The same scenario may be repeated this time, with more devastating consequences and a more prominent role for Turkey and Russia.
According to data released by the US military command in Africa at the end of last month, Russia has developed advanced combat aircraft at the Al-Jufra base in central Libya and elsewhere in its east, but the US ambassador said Thursday that it has not yet been used. Similarly, satellite imagery showed that Turkey was working to equip a landing pad at the Al-Wattia base to be fit to receive F-16s.
In practice, the government of “National Accord” has come to control most of western Libya, while Field Marshal Hifter is working to strengthen its defenses, especially in the middle of the country, with an intense Russian presence through “Wagner.” This means that the country has become divided between Turkish and Russian influence in a more clear and sharp manner, which could allow the rapprochement between them and the signing of a ceasefire agreement that was aborted at the beginning of the year, and Haftar’s retreat in the last moments.
However, a temporary cessation of hostilities may turn into room for arranging papers and starting a new confrontation, and this may take years under the veil of cautious calm and negotiation, as happened previously between 2014 and 2019. What has happened is a significant development, but it is inconclusive in determining the destination of the country, and it may not be sufficient to curb regional projects around its future, especially for the Emirates region, the main financier of Haftar’s activities, which will not easily accept abandoning years of efforts in favor of a political solution that keeps those whom you consider Islamists in the scene. Libyan.