Berlin II talks on Libya seek to give a lift to push for December elections

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Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, is to attend a Berlin summit on resolving Libya’s political divisions on Wednesday as the country’s factions look to hold unified elections for a new leadership by the end of 2021.

Under the chairmanship of Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, and with Antonio Guterres attending, the goal of the meeting is to gain further progress towards stabilisation of the country following a decade of turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi.

Mr Blinken talked with his Libyan counterpart interim foreign minister Najla Mangoush late last week ahead of a visit she made to Egypt as part of preparations for the conference. “[Mr Blinken] stressed the United States’ commitment to increasing diplomatic engagement to promote international efforts supporting progress in Libya,” a State Department statement said.

German diplomats have framed the meeting as Berlin II and see it as a chance to push forward the process that led to all sides in the country’s conflict agreeing to a ceasefire late last year. The UN-led political talks process then subsequently produced a deal on a transitional government under Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and a presidential council headed by Mohammad Younes Menfi. The interim leadership has since pledged to adopt a constitutional framework in the coming weeks ahead of the year-end election.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank wrote in a report last week that the Libya situation was a beneficiary of changing diplomatic pressures, including those surrounding Turkey’s position in the Mediterranean. It contended regional diplomacy was gaining an upper hand broadly on the trend to resort to the gunboat.

“Libya has been the key theatre for this Turkish-focused rivalry and is now witnessing the fruits of the emerging detente,” the report, titled Cooling-off, said.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libyan senior fellow at the Global Initiative think tank, said the key test was how to keep the political track on course for the elections. “I think there’s a good chance and the Berlin process could help,” he said.

The battle to quash the rise of extremist movements in Libya after Qaddafi was overthrow in 2011 was eclipsed in recent years by the intervention of Turkey to shore up its allies. Its presence has been a sticking point to full implementation of the ceasefire.

Last month Ms Mangoush publicly urged Turkey to “co-operate” over the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from the country.

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While the security situation in Libya has been slowly improving, diplomats including Jan Kubris, the UN envoy, have warned the process remains a delicate balancing act in which both sides need to ensure that neither side feels it is losing out by withdrawing.

Mr Dbeibah led a ceremony on Sunday for the government reopening of the coastal highway linking the country’s east and west, which had been closed for two years due to fighting.

Mr Kubris announced a meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Switzerland from June 28 to July 1 for members of the group “to develop proposals to further facilitate the holding of national elections”.

The National

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