27 February – 5 March: UN leads meeting between Serraj and Haftar in Abu Dhabi to end transitional phase of government

Mar 5, 2019 | International actors

On 27 February, Libyan National Army (LNA) head Khalifa Haftar and Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj met in Abu Dhabi under the auspice of UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame. UNSMIL said that both parties agreed to end the transitional phase of government, hold elections, and unify Libyan institutions. However, no formal agreement was presented or signed, no photos of the event were published, and no official statements were made by Serraj or Haftar.

The Abu Dhabi dialogue has been publicly supported by the international community. On 2 March, the governments of the US, UK, France and Italy issued a joint statement welcoming the meeting and the ‘agreement’, reiterating their support for Salame, and adding that there can be no military solution in Libya. The statement also urged force majeure to be lifted at Sharara oilfield. The UN Secretary General also released a statement in support of Salame’s efforts and the deal supposedly reached between Serraj and Haftar, as did Germany’s Ambassador to Libya, Oliver Owcza.

The Haftar-Serraj meeting has provoked mixed reactions in Libya. On 2 March, the Libyan Justice and Construction Party released a statement praising Serraj and stating its ‘satisfaction’ with the meeting. On 3 March, the Misrata Military Council and some Misratan elders released a statement outlining the ‘conspiracy being waged in the capital’, condemning Haftar as a war criminal and calling for the creation of a modern civil state without international interference in Libya’s domestic affairs. Elders from Tajoura also explicitly criticised Salame for his support of Haftar’s ‘military coup’. The same day, western region elders meeting in Zuwara denounced a return to dictatorship and said they were committed to the establishment of a constitutional civilian state that rules over the army and security forces.

On 3 March, a meeting took place in Doha between the president of the High Council of State (HCS), Khaled al-Mishri, and the Qatari foreign minister, while Salame and his deputy Stephanie Williams met with HCS deputies and committee heads in Tripoli to discuss the political roadmap.