The highly anticipated Berlin conference was a step toward lasting peace. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the 55-point final communique as "an agreement on a comprehensive plan to support a cease-fire in Libya." The commitment of all stakeholders to respect the arms embargo and the submission of that agreement to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) are welcome steps. The UNSC permanent members, who were at the negotiating table in Berlin, are expected to approve it. Another welcome step was Libyan putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar's decision to send representatives to a 5+5 military commission that will meet in Geneva, Switzerland. Finally, it is good news that the parties have formed a political commission with four technical subcommittees.
As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pointed out, however, Haftar did not formally sign the cease-fire agreement. Judging by the Libyan warlord's personality and the track record of his state sponsors, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France, there is a good chance that he will simply ignore the cease-fire.
Haftar could find it difficult to stomach the Government of National Accord's (GNA) international recognition as Libya's legitimate powerholder – just when victory was within his grasp. If his self-styled Libyan National Army was to continue wreaking violence, the response of all other actors who were in Berlin on Sunday will be absolutely crucial.
Let us recall that Haftar was responsible for dragging Libya into a bloody civil war in 2014. If his future acts of aggression go unpunished, the Berlin conference will be a stillborn attempt at peace. To say that "there can be no military solution in Libya" isn't enough. The international community must be in a position to dictate those terms on the Libyan National Army. Failure to enforce the cease-fire would fuel a proxy war, turning Libya into another Syria.
The road to "lasting peace" will be long and hard. The table has just been set – and there will be stakeholders that wish to overturn it or render it obsolete. In other words, there will be an attempt to turn the negotiating table in Berlin into the ill-fated Geneva process for Syria. For the time being, the only source of hope is the belief that the parties of the Berlin conference learned the lessons of Syria.
Germany and Italy already know that an aggravated civil war in Libya will hurt their interests severely. Terrorism and another mass influx of refugees could put Europe's stability at risk. To make matters worse, the Europeans won't have a seat at the table unless they match the joint Russian-Turkish initiative in Libya. Indeed, they called for the establishment of an EU force for that purpose, but the participants wanted the United Nations to oversee the process.
Ironically, Turkey and Russia effectively made the Berlin conference possible by throwing their weight behind diplomatic talks. The two countries, which learned the lessons of Syria better than anyone and developed a new kind of cooperation, encouraged Germany to step up and weaken France's hand. The Italians have expressed concern about Russia in an attempt to bring the United States into the picture. France's pro-Haftar stance, however, keeps the European Union deeply divided. Finally, there is no reason to believe that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which are behind so much of the violence in the Middle East, will simply give up.
Turkey's moves led many high-level representatives to meet quickly around the negotiating table in Berlin. Ankara signed two agreements with the GNA on Nov. 27 to launch a new process. Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin's Jan. 8 call for a cease-fire and their subsequent meeting in Moscow added to the Berlin conference's significance.
At the same time, Turkey's most recent moves improved its standing in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turks managed to deny Greece a seat at the table, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel turned down a proposal to ignore Turkey's agreements with Libya. Meanwhile, the Italians came out against the EastMed pipeline project, claiming that it was financially unfeasible. Hence, the Israeli media concluded that Turkey was the biggest winner in Libya.
The international community will also heavily rely on Turkey and Russia for the Berlin cease-fire's enforcement. If Germany ends up sidelined, there could be a new process, akin to the Astana talks, to end the violence in Libya.
About the author
Burhanettin Duran is General Coordinator of SETA Foundation and a professor at Social Sciences University of Ankara. He is also a member of Turkish Presidency Security and Foreign Policies Council.