For the third time in a month, members of Libya’s 5 + 5 Joint Military Committee held a meeting that led to a number of positive indicators about the continuation of the remarkable state of peace and stability that Libya has been experiencing in the past two years, especially with regard to avoiding armed conflict as means to resolve the legitimacy crisis between executive authorities in the east and west.
The venue for the new negotiating session between the military parties was the first positive indicator of progress, as this round was held for the first time in Benghazi. The city is the stronghold of the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Military leaders in Tripoli had rejected negotiating with Haftar until recently.
The 5 + 5 Joint Military Committee consists of five military leaders from western Libya and their counterparts in the east. Established, the committee has been holding regular talks to purse the implementation of the ceasefire agreement signed in October 2020.
In its closing statement after the Benghazi meeting, the committee affirmed its “full commitment to outcomes of previous dialogues that took place in the Tunis and Tripoli”.
According to the statement, military leaders discussed for the first time the elections, its security, and the support of the military parties for a smooth political transition. The committee confirmed that the participants in the negotiating session agreed to “enhance confidence between military and security leaders to support the political process, and move forward in providing a suitable environment for free and fair elections this year”.
The committee expressed “its readiness to provide all forms of support to secure the elections in all its stage”. It also agreed to “start practical measures to address the problems of the internally displaced and missing, and ensure their safe return, in coordination between the concerned security services in the various regions,”
Furthermore, it agreed to “exchange information about detainees held by both sides, and start taking practical steps to release them,” which is one of the sensitive issues that has been the at root of differences between the two parties in the past years.
Code of Conduct
The head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, praised the committee’s position on the upcoming elections, its pledge to secure them and accept their results. He expressed hope that “the military and security meeting of the leaders of the western and eastern regions will be able to move forward towards adopting a code of conduct that outlines the features of a favorable political environment, which adheres to securing free and fair elections in 2023 and endorsing their results.”
“The continuation of these meetings will contribute to providing a solid basis for a political settlement that will culminate in resolving the crisis, by creating an environment conducive to holding comprehensive, free and fair elections in 2023,” Bathily said.
The UN envoy demanded that the committee be spared the consequences of the political conflict, after the gains it had achieved, stressing that “these meetings should not deviate from their course because of the polarizing rhetoric that some tend to promote.”
Bathily pointed out that “everyone knows that fully resolving the Libyan crisis and putting an end to the current political stalemate requires time and patience.”
For his part, LNA’s representative in the Joint Military Committee, Lieutenant General Marji’ al-Amami, stressed the importance of consolidating the current gains in the military track, saying that he “hopes that the meetings will continue in any part of Libya.”
During his speech at the Benghazi meeting, Al-Amami said “the continuation of the meetings of the Military Committee is important in order to overcome difficulties, solve all problems, and reach free and fair elections.”
A Good Start
Many political analysts believed that Bathily made a successful start in his plan to solve the Libyan crisis, by focusing on the security and military track, unlike the seven envoys who preceded him in the position during the past ten years, who focused on the political track even though the core of the Libyan conflict is security, not politics.
In the context, security affairs researcher, Naji Al-Qadari, said, “the moves that the UN envoy Bathily is taking are actual measures to move forward with withdrawing mercenaries and foreign forces from Libya, which are steps that none of the previous envoys have taken before.”
Al-Qadari considered that “what Bathily is doing is exactly the right thing, as he did not hold the Libyans alone responsible for this issue, but rather he involves the foreign countries to which those mercenaries belong.”
“Bathily affirms on every occasion or international or regional meeting that the presence of mercenaries in Libya poses a threat to the entire region and its security, which makes international assistance in expelling them effective,” he added.
He stressed that the UN diplomat’s movements in this issue are “directly supported by the Egyptian authorities, because Cairo is very interested in withdrawing foreign fighters from Libya”.
A member of the High Council of State, Ahmed Abu Brik, welcomed the meeting of the military leaders in the city of Benghazi, and said, “We appeal for their support on the political solution.”
“The importance of what the military committee is achieving lies in the fact that the crisis in Libya is primarily a security one, and if these meetings succeed, it will pave the way for its complete solution,” he added.
He pointed out that “external interference must be kept away from these meetings in order to produce a solution with Libyan hands.”
Meanwhile, a joint statement by a union of several armed groups based in western Libya disturbed the positive atmosphere and the state of optimism that overwhelmed the Libyan scene. The so-called Libyan Revolutionaries Union in Tripoli, which is the largest bloc of armed militias in the capital, rejected the 13th constitutional amendment issued by the House of Representatives, threatening to use force to confront it and obstruct its implementation.
In a recorded statement, the group also rejected what it described as “the militarization of the state” and “allowing dual nationals, and those whose hands are stained with the blood of Libyans, to assume public office”.
The group affirmed its intention to “move forward to achieve the revolution’s goals of a peaceful transfer of power and the unity of the Libyan soil,” adding that “getting out of this political and security chaos is our responsibility.”
The statement indicated that “all the forces, including individuals and mechanisms affiliated with the Libyan Revolutionaries Union, are the strong shield of national security and are ready to defend the capabilities of the Libyan people.”
Written by: Zayed Hadiya – Independent Arabia
Translated by: The Libya Update