by Souad Sbai
Putin meets Haftar and Sarraj in Moscow for the signing of the agreement. Despite the activism of Conte and Di Maio, Italy remains outside the tables that count. Here are the mistakes made.
Libyan crisis is breaking. The two contenders, Fayez al Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar, are both in the court of Vladimir Putin in Moscow for the signing of an agreement aimed at defining the conditions of the ceasefire, already in force on the night of Saturday 11 January. Haftar asked for time until this morning before signing, but his could be a way to gain additional benefits from a strong negotiating position.
According to the rumors circulated in the international press, the agreement, in addition to establishing the withdrawal of the forces of both sides from the areas of greatest conflict in their respective positions, would include clauses with a clear political value.
Among these, the blocking of the sending of soldiers by Erdogan from Turkey; the sending of a Russian delegation to supervise the truce (in coordination with an international UN monitoring presence); the disarmament of some militias (presumably the Islamist ones linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, armed and financed by Turkey and Qatar) which have hitherto supported the Sarraj government in Tripoli (Gna); the attribution to the Libyan National Army of Haftar of the responsibility for the fight against terrorism and to guarantee the safety of oil and gas wells.
Furthermore, the agreement should contain measures aimed at outlining a division of labor between the Gna and the Tobruk Parliament that supports Haftar. These measures would serve as a basis for a broader redefinition of the positions within the same Gna, subject of forthcoming negotiations.
Basically, if the rumors are confirmed, the agreement would sanction the victory of the Haftar front (which also includes Egypt and the United Arab Emirates), with Sarraj forced to accept a downward compromise to guarantee his survival, at least in the short term . If Erdogan had not sent reinforcements, taken among extremist fighters in Ankara’s service in Syria, Sarraj’s bargaining force at the negotiating table would have been even more reduced.
Turkey itself recognized the pre-eminence of the role of Russia, which with the signing in Moscow of the ceasefire agreement between Sarraj and Haftar has established itself as the main guarantor of the so-called Libyan national reconciliation.
Russia succeeded where instead France and Italy failed, whose divisions and rivalries ended up benefiting Germany too. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who rushed to the Kremlin on Sunday 12 January for talks with Putin, anticipating Sarraj and Haftar, announced the holding of the long-awaited Berlin Conference on Sunday 19 January. Merkel is in fact concerned to put her seal on the resolution of the crisis, guaranteeing Germany a leadership role between the European countries in coordination with Russia and Turkey. A result, this, acceptable for the United Kingdom and, overseas, the United States, for which Libya is almost exclusively a matter of security and anti-terrorism.
It is less so for France, which has failed to satisfy its neo-colonialist ambitions in North Africa, after unfortunately being the main architect of the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
However, Paris will most likely succeed in advancing its interests, relying on a solid relationship with Haftar and Sarraj’s need for a French diplomatic bank to strengthen its position.
To stay with the proverbial match in hand seems Italy. At the mess of January 8, when Sarraj refused to land in Rome because of the reception as head of state reserved by Giuseppe Conte to Haftar, he remedied the president of the Gna himself, convincing himself to meet the Italian premier on January 11 , always due to the need to keep relations with European governments alive, avoiding that they direct their support exclusively towards Haftar.
However, the figure does not change: Italy today is outside the tables that count on Libya and can hope to find a seat there only if it will be granted to it, in particular from Turkey and Russia. Italy, in fact, knows that it is an inconvenience for the European “allies” and looks with concern at the Berlin Conference, where in all likelihood it will be relegated to a de facto marginal role, although Merkel could grant some photo opportunities that make Conte feel important.
The Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, continues to support the importance of the summit in the German capital in words, but has also proposed an unlikely three-way technical table between Rome, Moscow and Ankara, which is competitive with respect to the process that will be launched in Berlin . Symptomatic of the government’s difficulties and difficulties is also the courtship carried out by Di Maio against Turkey, after he had invoked heavy sanctions against Erdogan for the anti-Kurdish invasion of northern Syria.
At the Cairo conference on January 8, the political leader of the M5s did not sign the declaration signed by France, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, because it condemned Ankara’s aggressive attitude in Libya and the Mediterranean. He then went to Istanbul for a meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, during which, between hugs and smiles, he launched the idea of the tripartite technical table.
After many uncertainties, without proving to be a reliable ally for Sarraj or for Haftar, Italy remained isolated in the middle of meditating on the bankruptcy consequences of its policy, inaugurated by the Renzi governments and developed by the Conte governments on the basis of the claim to be able to keep feet in more shoes as a winning “strategy”. Security, energy, business, migrants: Italian interests in Libya are now at the mercy of other chancelleries and their benevolence.
translation Cecilia Sagnelli