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Opinion and Editorial

KT Edit: Libyan rivals must give diplomacy a chance

Filed on January 19, 2020 | Last updated on January 19, 2020 at 10.51 pm

Nine years of strife, and no victor. It is clear that there can be no military solution to the civil war in Libya. Guns and artillery have failed to bring the country together under one banner and one leader. The conflict has continued for too long and the West has realised that its intervention in the country to remove former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 only made the situation worse. Back then, Nato intervened when Gaddafi used excessive force against peaceful protesters. Months of Western bombing weakened the regime and the cruel despot was soon dethroned and killed by his own people. But Libya's problems were only beginning - with a refugee crisis from Africa to Europe that almost crippled the social and political order in the continent in the early 2010s. Meanwhile in Libya, tribes and factions battled each other and established power centres in Tripoli, Sirte, and Misrata.

Fighting has intensified in the last year between the forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and those loyal to Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj. Haftar's troops have made some gains as they knock on the doors of Tripoli, and there are fears that there could be a bloodbath if battles rage in the capital. UN estimates now put the death toll at 280 civilians. More that 146,000 people have been displaced and that figure is set to rise if a peace deal is not arrived at in Berlin. Germany's attempt to broker a solution has the support of the global community, including the US, whose Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Berlin for the conference. The UAE is also keen on a resolution to the conflict as fears mount about a Syria-like situation unfolding in the oil-rich country with many powers jockeying for influence. The latest entrant is Turkey, which has sent troops to back Sarraj's forces.

France and Italy, two of the main European powers, find themselves in opposite camps in the country, so do Russia and Turkey. Moscow failed to broker a deal last week. Berlin could do better. The optics look good with more powers being involved this time. They've made a positive start with the warring sides agreeing to avoid targeting oil facilities.

Libya's national interests would mean the factions led by Haftar and Sarraj form a national government with the backing of global and regional powers to put the country back on its feet. A protracted war could affect Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Power-sharing through diplomacy are on the table for Haftar and Sarraj who must grab the opportunity presented in Berlin.

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