US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Berlin on Wednesday for a meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas prior to the peace talks on Libya.
Foreign ministers from powers around the world gathered in the German capital to help find a way to enable the deeply troubled North African country to remain on a path toward democracy, including the staging of general elections on December 24 of this year.
The Berlin II Conference, attended by Blinken, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, is a follow up from the January 2020 meeting on Libya that had been attended by foreign ministers from around the world.
In his remarks to the press before he entered the meeting, Blinken stated “Much progress has been made since the first Berlin conference in January 2020.
“We are here today to build on that progress, through the full implementation of the Political Roadmap adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum; the Ceasefire Agreement of October 2020; and the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2570 concerning the monitoring of the ceasefire, and the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2021.
“Full implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement is of paramount importance to consolidate peace in Libya. I commend the 5+5 Joint Military Commission for working together toward this end, and I am encouraged by the continued investment in confidence-building measures by both sides.
“The United Nations is committed to supporting the Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism. The initial group of UN ceasefire monitors will be deployed to Tripoli soon.
“We must put an end to all foreign interference, including the full withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya. I urge Libyan and external parties to agree on a comprehensive plan, with clear timelines, to achieve this goal, which UNSMIL stands ready to support.
“National elections should be a time for unity. All Libyans, including women, youth and internally displaced people, should be able to participate freely in the elections on 24 December, as candidates and voters. Incitement to violence, harassment or hate speech should have no place in the electoral process.
Blinken continued, saying “Progress on the military and political fronts will need to go hand in hand with serious efforts to address the root causes of instability in Libya. This calls for an inclusive rights-based national reconciliation process, starting at the community level, with a focus on women and young people.
“I welcome the decision by the Government of National Unity to establish a High National Reconciliation Commission and reiterate the commitment of the United Nations to work with all partners, particularly the African Union, to support this critical process.
However, the American Secretary of State showed unease at the conditions under which Libyans are living at the moment. “I am very concerned about the serious and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya,” he stated.
“Some 1.3 million people are estimated to need humanitarian assistance, an increase of 400,000 since last year. I urge Member States to support the Humanitarian Response Plan requesting $189 million to support the most vulnerable, which is just 21 per cent funded.”
In announcing the Berlin II conference earlier this Spring, Germany’s FM Maas had underlined that the bid for peace has been a long process and “we ourselves were often not sure if the targets we have set can be reached.
“But after the developments in recent months, we are cautiously optimistic and therefore it also makes sense to invite participants of the first Libyan conference at the foreign ministers’ level to ensure that the path that has now been taken in Libya is continued,” he said at a news conference.
Using careful diplomatic language, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Twitter that he had held a phone call with Jan Kubis, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Libya, and noted that Athens was dissatisfied with not receiving an invitation.
Dendias said they also discussed the issue of Libyan refugees and cooperation with the UN in this regard.
Speaking earlier on Thursday at the 9th International Growth Conference in Patras, Dendias said that he has expressed Greece’s dissatisfaction to his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
New era for Greece-Libya relations
He emphasized that over recent months Greece “has a direct dialogue and communication with the Libyan side,” and suggested participants to the Berlin Conference urge Libya not to activate the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, which is in any case “legally non-existent,” and to push for the “immediate withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries.”
Dendias had visited Libya in April, opening a new era for Greek-Libyan relations, as he vowed Greece “is back” in Libya.
Following up from the issues already discussed during the visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Libya in early April, FM Dendias also brought up the issue of maritime delineation, condemning the memorandum signed between Turkey and the previous Libyan government.
I welcomed the opportunity to engage with key partners at the Berlin II Conference on Libya. We very much appreciate Germany hosting this vital discussion, and applaud the participation of a Unified Libyan Government. pic.twitter.com/MtoA8mUtg9
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) June 23, 2021