Thursday, March 18, 2021

Libya - UK and France refused to negotiate

 Libya has been embroiled in perpetual conflict for 10 years. Foreign powers have intervened and foreign mercenaries deployed by rival Libyan governments. The country also eventually becoming the second largest base for the so-called Islamic State jihadists. And Libya because of its chaotic condition became the the centre of the migrant route to Europe. Libya became an example of another failed state;

On March 17th 2011, the United Nations voted to intervene to stop Gaddafi killing his own people, with NATO aircraft flying more than 7,000 strike sorties against Gaddafi’s forces over the following seven months. Two senior Norwegian officials were in talks  in the Presidential Palace in Tripoli with Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam,  when the UN resolution was passed in New York. They had to be hurriedly driven across the border into Tunisia for their own safety, with the first NATO airstrikes imminent.

In February 2011 Libya followed other Arab countries into uprising, with tens of thousands taking to the streets demanding an end to Gaddafi’s rule. His security forces cracked down brutally.

 In regard to negotiations, the then-Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Store, who was brokering a deal, accused France and Britain of opposing a negotiated solution. The two sides agreed to a draft text stating that Muammar Gaddafi - who had ruled Libya for 42 years - would step down and leave politics, but keep the institutions of state in place. In the end the talks fell apart and rebels, with NATO’s support, ultimately captured and killed Gaddafi.

Store explains, "Had there been in the international community a willingness to pursue this track with some authority and dedication, I believe there could have been an opening to achieve a less dramatic outcome and avoid the collapse of the Libyan state."

Norwegian diplomats went back and forth, eventually hammering out a ‘comprehensive plan’ to end the crisis. The first line stated: "Colonel Gaddafi has decided to leave power and step aside and to end the first phase of the revolution." Store even spoke to Saif al-Islam on the phone to confirm this plan had backing at the highest levels in Libya. 

"People very close to Gaddafi, people in the legal apparatus, in his family, supported what was on the table," said Staale Wiig, a Norwegian biographer of Store who first uncovered the existence of the negotiations years after the war. 

They took the deal agreed in Oslo to the United States, France and Britain. Store himself accepts that the major Western nations weren’t interested in a negotiated settlement. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reportedly keen but the other two nations weren’t interested, Store said.

"Had there been a will to do it... one could have imagined some kind of ceasefire in the military campaign to allow diplomats to move in," Store said. "But the military operation had already lasted for eight weeks, the dynamic on the ground was changing, and frankly speaking the will to rally behind such a process was not there."

After 2011 Libya slid into a new civil war, which lasted much of the last decade. Barack Obama later described the lack of post-conflict planning as the “worst mistake” of his presidency, with the country becoming a battleground for rival regional powers.

Store said the failure to take the 2011 negotiations seriously was made more tragic by the lost decade that followed it, in which the country became "a theatre for remote battles - other countries fighting it out to the last Libyan."

The secret talks that nearly saved Gaddafi | The Independent

No comments: