Op-Ed: Libya peace talks break down and the two parties leave Geneva

Posted Feb 25, 2020 by Ken Hanly
Events change quickly. Earlier in the day there was a reports that Haftar forces and the GNA had agreed to a ceasefire at UN talks in Geneva. However, the two sides almost immediately scrapped the deal but then abandoned the talks and left Geneva.
Forces backing Libya's unity government  seen here last May  have been battling Haftar's f...
Forces backing Libya's unity government, seen here last May, have been battling Haftar's forces since he launched an April offensive to take the capital
Mahmud TURKIA, AFP/File
Earlier ceasefire report
According to a repor
t the two sides reached a formal agreement on Monday at UN talks in Geneva after a shaky ceasefire. The internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) had walked out of the talks when commander Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) had continued attacks but have been convinced to return to them.
Failure of UN Geneva talks
The two sides suspended participation in the talks even after the UN had insisted that negotiations would go ahead. The talks were aimed at ending more than ten months of fighting between the GNA and Haftar's forces. Haftar has been trying to take Tripoli the capital for some time but so far has not been able to do so. The GNA controls only part of western Libya while the rest is at least nominally controlled by Haftar and allies.
Libya's conflict pits UN-recognised premier  Fayez al-Sarraj against military commander Khalifa...
Libya's conflict pits UN-recognised premier Fayez al-Sarraj against military commander Khalifa Haftar
The leader of the Haftar side's Geneva committee, Ahmaida Erouhma, claimed that his group's refusal to participate in the negotiations were due to the fact that the UN approved only 8 of 13 names he put forward for the Haftar delegation.
UN still claims diplomacy is the only solution
Given the suspension of talks it would appear that fighting between Haftar forces and the GNA will continue. Although most western nations give lip support to the GNA only Turkey appears to be providing any substantial military aid. However, several countries have supplied arms to Haftar including Egypt and the UAE and have also provided air support. Russia too supports Haftar and so does France. The UN appears reluctant to brand Haftar the aggressor as he clearly is. Even many who have little respect for the GNA do not want Haftar to become the de facto ruler of Libya,.
Haftar has always been disdainful of diplomacy and UN attempts at peace negotiations. He only engages in negotiations after he feels strong pressure and can use them to consolidate his own territorial advances. Unlike the UN he believes not only that a military solution is possible but is desirable, with him winning of course.
The UN downplays the aggressive behavior of Haftar and UN officials say that talks will continue. The Geneva talks for them were the only track for peace talks and there is no other option for them. The UN will simply remain an impotent bystander pleading with both sides to lay down their arms. There seems no sign of a resolution to the conflict as efforts to stop arms flowing into the region may do little except perhaps disadvantage the GNA as most of their arms come by sea.