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Reflections on the failures of Libyan talks at Geneva and beyond

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Libyans must themselves work to restore the long-lost unity of our nation. External solutions will only exacerbate our country’s already precarious state. It is time to end the series of failures that has plagued the collapse of talks and return the Libyan homeland to a state of legitimacy, writes Shukri Al-Sinki.

The demand to return Libya to constitutional legitimacy as it was last enjoyed in the country in 1969 is a genuine right of the nation. It is a plight to recover a stolen system of guaranteed rights and not the battle of an individual to reclaim his throne. Returning to constitutional legitimacy means returning to the state of affairs that Libyans enjoyed before 1969’s coup d’etat. The idea itself is not novel. The desire of Libyans to return to its original constitution and with it, restore the monarchy, was first introduced at a conference in 1992 in London, attended by representatives of the international press as well as several high-profile political personalities.

In line with the wish of the people, Prince Muhammad, the crown prince residing in London, has not publicized himself, nor will he appear as an aspirant to the throne until the conflicting factions of Libyan society agree to a compromise. Only the people can proclaim him a legitimate ruler. This is the legacy of the Senussi family, which Prince Muhammad has pledged to honor. The source of the family’s strength is precisely in the fact that it stands at an equal distance from all parties in Libya, in a neutral position. This is the kind of leadership that Libyans can seek refuge in should conflict intensify.

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“I know, my son, that our Senussi family does not belong to a single tribe, group or party, but to all Libyans. Our family was and will remain a large tent that all men and women in Libya can seek shelter under. If God and your people choose you, then I want you to serve as a king for all the people. You will have to rule with justice and equity, and be of assistance to everyone. You will also have to be the sword of the country when in need, and defend our homeland and the lands of Islam. Respect all local and international covenants.”

The time has come for Libya to recover after a prolonged period of hardship. The real solution to all of our existing divisions, wars and conflicts lies in a nationwide project deriving its legitimacy from the legacy that our founding fathers left behind. Independent from external pressures and internally imposed plans of the few, we must work together to restore legitimacy itself.

We have to come to terms with the fact that warring parties will not give in to each other’s requests out of their own volition, and will likely continue to battle. This threatens the entirety of our homeland’s existence. Perhaps a more easily acceptable and non-partisan leader, who is free of tribal and regional affiliations, could offer the remedy. A person of good standing and moral values who descends from a family chosen by God Himself. A family of both religious and reformist legacy whose forefather, King Idris, achieved one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of Libya: our country’s independence. The Al-Senussi heritage is one of nationalism and fighting for the people.

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We must overcome the ones who meddle with the future of Libya in the hope of putting their hands on our national resources, deriving personal benefit, or hoping to favor foreign agendas and impose authoritarian means of governance. We have to reject the further prolongation of the transitional period lest we risk inviting more opportunities for disputes and bring unwarranted danger back to Libya. We have had enough of wasting the country’s resources as well as the people’s time. We have had enough of taking on additional risks. We have had enough of walking down an unknown path. We have a constitutional heritage within our grasp, which we could call on any time. Let us call on it, let us invite our legitimate leader back, and let us pledge allegiance to a united Libya.

Shukri El-Sunki is a widely published Libya based writer and researcher. He is the author of four books, his most recent being Conscience of a Homeland (Maktaba al-Koun, 2021,) which chronicles the stories of Libyan heroes who faced and resisted the tyranny of the Gadhaffi regime.

Libya

The failures of the Berlin process - Pushing for December elections when compromise is so clearly impossible puts the future of Libya at risk

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Even an extra day of talks couldn’t bring a compromise between the 75 Libyan delegates meeting near Geneva in June. Despite presidential and legislative elections presently scheduled for 24 December, members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) cannot agree on the most basic tenets of elections: when to hold them, what sort of elections to hold, and, perhaps most critically and worryingly, on what constitutional grounds they shall be held, writes Mitchell Riding.

This, too, more than a month after the 1 July deadline for agreement on the constitutional basis that would underpin parliament’s adoption of an election law. The international community’s failures in Libya The UN’s mission in Libya - UNSMIL - while sounding the right notes, has not helped the matter. It warned that “proposals that do not make the elections feasible” on the aforementioned date “will not be entertained”, while Raisedon Zenenga, the mission’s coordinator, encouraged delegates “to continue to consult among yourselves to pursue a workable compromise and cement what unites you”.

Major foreign powers too, while ostensibly committed to a solution to the ‘Libya problem’, have seemingly moved it down their list of priorities. While the First Berlin Conference, held in 2020, was attended by heads of states, the 2021 iteration was a gathering of foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers. Where the outcome of the conference was clear, was on the central importance of removing foreign military backing, foreign soldiers and mercenaries from Libya. Libyan and German foreign ministers Najla Mangoush and Heiko Maas stated their belief in progress on the issue.

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Yet this - alongside upholding an arms embargo - was one of the centrepieces of the previous conference. Recent UN estimates put the number of foreign mercenaries in Libya at 20,000, many entrenched in frontline areas such as Sirte and Jufra. That such little progress has been made in the past 18 months is damning. The extent of foreign influence - at the expense of the Libyan people - was acutely clear in July when Dbeibah was reportedly unaware of an agreement between Russia and Turkey to withdraw fighters. Jennifer Holleis was right to question how much say Libyans would have in decisions about their own future. The protracted nature of the conflict in Libya - rumbling on as it has for nearly a decade now - has desensitised observers to the true cost of the turmoil. In July, Amnesty International reported that migrants in camps in Libya were forced to barter sex for water and food.

The international community ought to be stronger on providing surefire guarantees. Merely issuing a fifty-eight-point statement at such a crucial period for the future of Libya demonstrates how impotent major powers are in this situation. Thus, despite glimmers of hope - and no more than glimmers - including the opening of the Sirte-Misrata coastal road at the end of July (a key tenet of a 2020 ceasefire), reconciliation in Libya remains a distant prospect. Even the success of the coastal road’s reopening was overshadowed as clashes erupted in the west of the country. The impossibility of elections While Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, the Misrati prime minister of the newly-formed Government of National Unity, vowed to work toward holding elections in December, the present security situation is far from amenable to holding safe and legitimate elections.

In the east, Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), despite the failure of its 14-month assault on Tripoli last year, still holds sway, recently underscoring that his men will not be subject to civilian authority. While increasingly marginalised internationally, Haftar commands sufficient wherewithal to thwart peace attempts. Ján Kubiš, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya, rightly argued that holding national elections on 24 December is imperative for the stability of the country. At the end of July, Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives, warned that a delay to the elections would return Libya to “square one” and the turmoil of 2011. He also forewarned that failure to hold elections could result in another rival administration being established in the east. Saleh, for his part, blames the GNU, which took office in March as the nation’s first unity government in seven years, for delays, and for its failure to unify.

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The importance of elections cannot be overstated - a chaotic poll that produces results deemed illegitimate would plunge Libya deeper into crisis. This was the case in 2014 when deadly clashes between Islamists and government forces erupted and Salwa Bugaighis, a prominent human rights activist, was assassinated. A similar outcome is possible though, if elections are held under these less than optimal circumstances. The path forward Among the paths forward that would at least prevent regression, would be shifting the focus to other factors which would undoubtably contribute to much needed stability, namely establishing adequate constitutional foundations. This immediate term solution would provide a legitimate legal basis for future elections as well as serve to unify the country. Unification and reconciliation efforts have thus far clearly failed in Libya, and miserably so.

Present disagreements over the constitutional basis will only deepen the crisis and increase already high levels of apathy evident from the 2014 elections, where turnout was below 50%. Yet rather than turning to a new constitution per se, Libya has a ready-made solution: the reimposition of the 1951 constitution, a cause that has already been taken up by grassroots organisations. As well as providing a legitimate basis on which elections could be held, the 1951 constitution would serve as a unifying tool, reconciling a nation wracked by internal strife. After a supremely destructive decade, the potential exists for the imposition of emergency rule alongside a technocratic government, overseen by a symbol of national unity, namely the Libyan Crown Prince in exile. Parliamentary elections could still move forward on their scheduled date with the post-election nomination of a Prime Minister. Such steps would be in line with provisions of the constitution, and would be an important step toward restoring central rule and stability. As has been witnessed in disparate countries globally over time, technocracy is a particularly suitable form of government in times of crisis. The restoration of central rule would also augur well for the reunification of the divided military, a crucial step in Libya’s path forward.

As well as the concrete benefits detailed above, the reimposition of the 1951 constitution would have a less tangible but equally important effect: serving as a point of national unity to transcend the divisions that have proven so destructive. King Idris, who ruled from 1951 to 1969, acted as a symbol of unity; Mohammed as-Senussi, considered by Libyan royalists as the legitimate heir, would play the same role. Where the international community has failed - and even exacerbated the issues that wrack Libya - Libyans have the potential to pave their own path forward by campaigning for the return of the 1951 constitution.

Considering all that they have been through, it is indeed a chance the Libyan people deserve.

Mitchell Riding is an analyst at CRI Ltd, a boutique London-based intelligence consultancy, and is also a researcher with Wikistrat. Mitch previously worked on the Europe and Eurasia Desk at AKE, where he also covered Afghanistan, and for Oxford Business Group, where he contributed to reports on a broad range of emerging and frontier markets.

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Libya

Hunting Russians: How the CIA is alleged to have tried to lure 33 Russians to Libya

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The security company PMC Wagner is increasingly in the spotlight. The situation in Belarus in 2020, when 33 Russian citizens were detained, has become a cause for active discussions in international media. Bellingcat investigators have already repeatedly made a high-profile statement and promised to release their documentary exposing PMCs and revealing details of some SBU "special operation", but it has been delayed now for several months, writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

But now there are important details about the conflict in Belarus from the direct participants of the events - maybe this is a more reliable source of information than free interpretations of the events by Bellingcat? 

33 Russian citizens, dressed in military uniform and not resting in the sanatorium, aroused the suspicion of the Belarusian KGB, so finally these men were detained. shows now important information, citing sources - direct participants of the events. The President of the Foundation Maxim Shugaley alleges that in case of Belarus the whole CIA operation was planned. He claims that this was due to the failure of the information campaign in Libya in March-April 2020, during which the U.S. military command was unable to prove the presence of Wagner on the territory of the country. After that, they decided to develop a special operation together with the Ukrainian SBU.

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The alleged plan by the US and the SBU envisaged that Russian citizens aged between 20 and 50 were to be transferred to the territory of Mitiga airport (Tripoli), disguised in military uniforms and then shot. According to the plan, dead bodies of those killed would be transported to in Tarhuna, south-east of Tripoli, and then medias had to make scandalous statement about the bodies of Wagner PMC participants found in Libya. Thus, the U.S. wanted to kill two birds with one stone: to "prove" the presence of PMCs in an artificial way and to discredit Russia as the main geopolitical opponent.

The sources of the foundation also allege that CIA selected 180 people from Russia, divided into five groups - employees of military and security companies. For this purpose, they prepared fake documents stating that the Libyan Government of National Unity was inviting Russian citizens to guard the oil fields. However, the idea did not last long as most of the invitees, who felt that a provocation was being prepared, so they refused to go to Libya. It is not surprising during a widespread anti-Russian campaign about the alleged presence of Russian military in Libya. Then the CIA came up with a new idea: they offered Russian citizens jobs in Venezuela as security guards at oil facilities.

Further, a detailed plan for the implementation of the provocation was thought out: the group was to be taken on a charter flight in order to land the plane in Tripoli during an "emergency landing" and to be shot there. U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials also expected the charter to come from Turkish territory - but the plan went wrong as they failed to reach an agreement with Ankara.

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The Russian participants in the events were then sent to Belarus. According to the plan, they were to be sent to Turkey by a regular flight, and from Istanbul they were to be sent by charter to Venezuela. The plan included the same emergency landing in Tripoli.

But this plan was also thwarted: the Turkish authorities were dragging their feet about organising the flight so as not to take responsibility for a possible failure, and also not to expose themselves to danger. During this pause, a group of invitees was taken by bus to the sanatorium "Belorusochka" in order to buy time to negotiate with Turkey.

But only the pause dragged on, and events in Belarus took their course: 33 Russian citizens, dressed in military uniform and not resting in the sanatorium, aroused the suspicion of the Belarusian KGB, so finally these men were detained.

That is why now the CIA and their information tools, such as Bellingcat, find it difficult to interpret the events and do not know how to explain the failure of the CIA and SBU operation.

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Africa

EU sanctions: Commission publishes specific provisions concerning Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic and Ukraine

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The European Commission has adopted three opinions on the application of specific provisions in the Council Regulations on EU restrictive measures (sanctions) concerning Libya and Syria, the Central African Republic and actions undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine. They concern 1) changes to two specific features of frozen funds: their character (sanctions concerning Libya) and their location (sanctions concerning Syria); 2) the release of frozen funds by way of enforcing a financial guarantee (sanctions concerning the Central African Republic) and; 3) the prohibition to make funds or economic resources available to listed persons (sanctions concerning the territorial integrity of Ukraine). While Commission opinions are not binding on competent authorities or EU economic operators, they are intended to offer valuable guidance to those who have to apply and follow EU sanctions. They will support the uniform implementation of sanctions across the EU, in line with the Communication on the European economic and financial system: fostering openness, strength and resilience.

Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said: “EU sanctions must be implemented fully and uniformly throughout the Union. The Commission stands ready to assist national competent authorities and EU operators in tackling the challenges in applying these sanctions.”

EU sanctions are a foreign policy tool, which, among others, help to achieve key EU objectives such as preserving peace, strengthening international security, and consolidating and supporting democracy, international law and human rights. Sanctions are targeted at those whose actions endanger these values, and they seek to reduce as much as possible any adverse consequences for the civilian population.

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The EU has arond 40 different sanctions regimes currently in place. As part of the Commission's role as Guardian of the Treaties, the Commission is responsible for monitoring the enforcement of EU financial and economic sanctions across the Union, and also ensuring that sanctions are applied in a way that takes into account the needs of humanitarian operators. The Commission also works closely with member states to ensure that sanctions are implemented uniformly throughout the EU. More information on EU sanctions here.

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