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JEAN-JACQUES CORNISH: Libya deal as full of holes as a colander

OPINION

The actors that needed to be in Berlin at the weekend were all there. But the agreement they reached on Libya is as full of holes as a colander.

So much depends on what happens at the follow-up meeting in Geneva later this week.

Will the five parties named by each side in the conflict be able agree on how best to monitor the deal?

The success or failure of the deal concocted at the German-hosted deliberations will be determined by whether it can be translated into a resolution that can be unanimously adopted by United Nations Security Council.

The ultimate question, however, is who holds the economic trump card?

Libya has confounded the best-intentioned peacemakers since the fall and killing of Muammar Gadaffi in 2011.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hosted peace talks in Moscow a week before the Berlin gathering, can hardly be said to fall into this category.

Neither, in all honesty, can German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She was able to get the great and good to attend her talks. But her motivation, like Putin’s, was not altruistic.

An increasing number of the desperate people using Libya as a launching point for reaching a more secure - both physically and economically - future in Europe end up in Germany.

She has to be seen to be doing everything she can to stem this flow.

The oil-rich nation of Libya has become a poor country split between the weak United Nations-backed Government of National Accord led by Fayez Al-Sarraj and the rebel-held Benghazi in the east led by Khalifa Haftar.

Both these leaders were present in Berlin but did not overtly participate in the talks.

This was left to the leaders of Russia, Turkey, France, Egypt, Italy, the United States and Britain.

Berlin was a convenient stopover for the World Economic Forum meeting starting in Davos, Switzerland.

Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, China, Congo Republic, United Nations, European Union and African Union all sent representatives.

En route to Berlin Al-Sarraj and Haftar stopped over in Athens for talks with the Greek government that has taken a far more active interest in Libya following the signing of a maritime and military agreement by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Al-Sarraj.

Fears of Libya becoming a proxy war are plainly well grounded.

No surprise, therefore that the primary demand from Berlin was of non interference.

Ironically it was the interference of Turkey - whose parliament voted to allow deployment of troops to protects to GNA - and Russia playing its more muscular regional role that led to the ceasefire earlier in January.

The Berlin conference, having called on players to implement the 2011 arms embargo on Libyan combatants, urged those opposing parties to observe the ceasefire.

The conference added that sanctions would have to be imposed on those breaking this embargo - yet another issue that has to pass the UN Security Council.

The only way through the impasse is by restoring the political process.

That is what has to happen in Geneva.

The biggest question is whether Haftar, who walked out of the Moscow meeting, actually inked any document in Berlin.
He maintains he holds the whip hand when it comes to Libyan oil.

He has brought the flow of oil out of Libya to halt by preventing exports through the ports of Brega, Ras Lanuf, Hariga, Zueitina and Sidra.

As long as he maintains this choke-hold on the economy, he can be considered effectively to control the peace process.

Even human rights, always a major consideration, has to follow the money.

In Berlin countries were once again urged not to return rescued migrants to the appalling conditions in the Libyan detention centres.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish

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