A SERIES OF ENCOUNTERS THAT HAVE LEAD TO NOTHING YET
Long before the Palermo meeting in Sicily, France tried in its own way to find solution to the chaotic situation in the once-prosperous country of Muammar Gaddafi. Just like the conference organized at the initiative of Rome, conference in Paris challenged the four main protagonists of Libyan conflict. The objective of France was then to find an agreement and arrange legislative and presidential elections this December at the latest. The talks were to lead to a road map to clarify the electoral process which the various protagonists of the crisis had to comply with. These meetings resulted in the announcement of the presidential and legislative elections on December 10, 2018, which was, although welcomed by Paris, met by many analysts with skepticism. Among the highlighted shortcomings, refusal of a few key figures to put their signatures to the said text, not acknowledging each other’s legitimacy. In addition to merely oral form of this agreement, other influential figures of Libyan conflict were sidelined. In particular, absence of tribal leaders, some leaders of armed groups more powerful than the Government of National Accord, based in the city of Misrata. Flaws that foreshadowed possible failure with regard to arrangement of these polls within the deadlines set by Paris.
ELECTIONS, A SOLUTION PROMOTED BY PARIS BUT REJECTED BY WASHINGTON
Paris has always presented the organization of elections in Libya in the shortest time possible as a ticket for possible return to stability. This point of view is not shared by Rome and Washington, for whom the political, legal and security climate prevailing in the country is not favorable or conducive to organization of elections. Following conclusions of Paris summit, Ghassan Salamé, the UN representative in Libya, raised the issue of elections transparency of, given the chaos reigning in the country. In addition to the need for an electoral law, he had also expressed concerns regarding the security aspect, acknowledgement of elections results by various clans, as well as freedom of speech and of voting.
The last elections held in Libya in 2014, three years after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, were marked by fierce disputes. Disagreements over the results of these legislative elections had given rise to a series of deadly clashes between the different factions fighting over power.
As for Misrata, where militias remain opposed to the troops of Marshal Haftar, negative attitude towards keen interest of Paris to hold elections as soon as possible is registered there. Armed groups ruling the western part of the country accuse France of aiming to make Marshal Hafta head Libya, the former arguing that he is an ally of Paris in the fight against terrorism but whose craving for power is known to all. Doubts raised by the rebel leaders of Misrata regarding close relationships between Marshal Aftar and Paris are also shared by Rome, known as rival of French neighbor over the management of the Libyan project.
ITALY WANTS TO TAKE OVER THE LIBYAN PROJECT
The international conference in Palermo is the opportunity for Rome to reposition itself as a major partner in resolving the crisis that is tearing Libya apart. In addition to the protagonists of the Libyan crisis, delegates of the United States, the European Union, Russia, France, the Arab League, the World Bank and IMF were invited to participate in Palermo talks. Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, complains of suffering the full impact of the chaos that has plagued Libya since the fall of the Gaddafi regime. In particular, migratory flows became uncontrollable and pose a real issue in terms of national security. Paris summit of 29 May 2018, aimed at finding an agreement to hold elections in Libya, where Rome was campaigning for the formation of a single government in this country, was frowned upon by Italy, arguing that Paris wanted to sideline Italy and manage the Libyan case alone. Determined to resume a strong position in the resolution of the Libyan conflict, Rome, previously preoccupied only by the migration issue, has this time leant at Palermo in terms of security and economic aspects.
While political leaders try to find solutions of common interests, to allow the Libyan people to find a normal way of life, in Libya effectiveness of this yet another meeting, regarding the situation prevailing in the country since the death of Muammar Gaddafi, is been disputed. Several talks preceding those in Palermo ended in failure. The country that has two assemblies is also led by two governments.
Endowed with enormous mineral wealth, Libya has sunk into an unprecedented agony. Terrorism, massive immigration, deadly fights, smuggling and human trafficking make it today the crossroads of all misery. Different rival groups guided by selfish interests clash daily within the territory to the chagrin of the population, who must regret with bitterness the time of Muammar Gaddafi presented by his executioners as the worst dictator. Democracy imposed by gunfire on this country will finally have given way to chaos and desolation. Things that the international conference in Palermo and many others will find difficult to eradicate without a deep and genuine desire of the Libyan people to return to their old peace.