UNSMIL, Russia, Egypt and Algeria Hold Diplomatic Talks on Libya

Dec 20, 2016 | International actors

On 13-14 December, representatives from several countries attended a two-day conference organised by UNSMIL in Tunis with some members of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The main purpose of the meetings was to discuss support for the establishment of the Presidential Council’s (PC) fledging Presidential Guard (PG) as a functioning military force. The event was attended by the head of the PG Colonel Najmi al-Nakua, PC members Ahmed Metig and Fathi Majbary, and the GNA Minister of Defence Mahdi al-Barghathi. According to diplomats who attended, the conference was told that 580 soldiers have been selected for the Presidential Guard. A further 900 soldiers and 160 police officers are still required. PC member and Haftar loyalist Ali al-Gutrani blasted UNSMIL’s “trusteeship conference” in Tunis and international backing for the PG, calling it a breach of Libyan sovereignty.

On 13 December, members of both pro and anti Government of National Accord (GNA) factions within the House of Representatives (HoR) met with Egypt’s Chief of Staff and Foreign Minister in Cairo. The talks produced a 5 point proposal which calls for critical amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), the dialogue committee, and the Presidential Council (PC). The proposal also called for a neutral entity to hold supreme command of the army and an amendment of the controversial article (8) clause. This clause currently prevents Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar from holding a position of power within Libya’s armed forces.

On 14 December, the HoR President Ageelah Saleh visited Russia to meet with his counterpart in the Kremlin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. This followed Haftar’s own visit to Moscow ten days before. Russia formally supports the UN-backed LPA, but there are indications that Russia seeks to bolster the position of Haftar and the anti-GNA faction in the HoR. However, Russia is also engaging with political actors on the pro-GNA side of the political rift. On 12 December, the Russian ambassador to Libya, Ivan Molotkov, met with the GNA Defence Minister Colonel Mahdi al-Barghathi for talks on the maintenance of Russian-made armaments within the control of the PC. Barghati is strongly anti-Haftar and is rumoured to have been involved in planning the failed counter attack against Haftar in the

On 18 December, Haftar travelled to Algeria where he met the Foreign Minister for Arab Affairs and the Prime Minister. This indicates a new thawing of relations between Algeria and Haftar. The purpose of the trip was ostensibly counter-terrorism coordination, which suggests that Algeria may now support an inclusive role for Haftar in leading the Libyan armed forces.