Year in Review: Key Events That Shaped Libya in 2020

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A new year is approaching and yet conflicts and violence in Libya are still on the rise. The Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and the Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, continue to vie for control of the country.

In 2020, Libya experienced a series of events that have shaped the military, political, and economic map of the war-stricken nation.

The biggest occurrence was Libya’s warring parties signing a ceasefire agreement and engaging in regional and international initiatives to unify the executive and legislative bodies.

Here are some of the key events that shaped the Libyan scene in 2020:

Turkey’s involvement in the Libyan war

In the early days of 2020, Turkey began to directly interfere in Libyan affairs by announcing its complete support to the GNA government. On 2 January, the Turkish Parliament approved a one-year-mandate for the deployment of Turkish forces in Libya. This has led to a series of threats by Egypt to intervene to support the LNA, claiming that it “will not stand idly against any direct threat to Egyptian and Libyan national security.”

Strategic Capture of Sirte

LNA forces have managed to seize control of the coastal city of Sirte. The strategic site fell to the LNA within a matter of hours in January.

Since 2016, Sirte had been ruled by forces allied with the GNA. The capture of Sirte by the LNA was a major win for Haftar, as the city is located some 230 miles (370 kilometres) east of Tripoli.

Resignation of UN Envoy to Libya

The UN’s special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, resigned saying his efforts to bring peace were detrimental to his health. Salame tweeted that “my health no longer allows this rate of stress, and therefore I have asked the [UN] secretary-general to relieve me of my duties.”

Berlin Conference

In January 2020, Germany organized a conference in Berlin attended by more than ten heads of state, under the auspices of the United Nations. The meeting stressed the need for a ceasefire, respect for the UN arms embargo, and an end to military support for the conflict.

Breakthrough of Libyan oil crisis

In January, the LNA blocked oil exports from Libya’s main ports, causing the country’s daily crude production to plunge from 1.3 million bpd to 100,000 bpd, resulting in losses of $55 million a day.

The National Oil Corporation (NOC) declared a “force majeure” in response to the blockade – a legal measure which exempts the corporation from responsibility for failure to fulfil contracts.

Spokesman for the LNA, Ahmed Al-Mismari said that the blockade was “purely a popular decision. It is the people who decided this.”

In September, Field Marshal Haftar agreed to a deal with the deputy prime minister of the GNA, Ahmed Maiteeq, to resume oil production. In October, the NOC announced the end of the force majeure on all oil facilities closed during the eight-month blockade.

Mass Protests

In August and September, mass protests erupted in several cities, primarily Tripoli and Benghazi. Demonstrators demanded better services and living conditions, as well as an end to corruption.

Infuriated at the extended cuts to power and water services, a severe banking crisis, and petrol shortages, the protesters marched chanting “No to corruption! “

The most immediate cause of the worsening power supply is a lack of fuel for electricity plants. The LNA has accused the NOC of not importing enough fuel to operate the power plants.

Al-Sarraj’s mysterious resignation announcement

In September, the GNA’s PM made a surprise decision by announcing his intention to resign. He added that he wanted to hand over his duties, by the end of October.

This resignation came at a time when the ongoing crisis was witnessing a political breakthrough. The two parties declared a complete and immediate ceasefire on 22 August and reached important understandings in the talks that took place in the Moroccan city of Bouznika.

However, Al-Sarraj, decided to back track on his resignation announcement, saying it was a response to the Libyan High Council of State’s demands for him to continue in office until a new presidential council was chosen.

Bouznika talks

In September, the Moroccan city of Bouznika hosted Libyan-led talks, as part of the Kingdom’s efforts to revive the 2015 Skhirat Agreement.

The talks came weeks after a visit by the Speaker of the Libyan Parliament, Ageela Saleh and head of the HCS, Khaled Al-Mishri to Morocco on 27 July.

The Libyan delegations announced that the talks ended with a comprehensive agreement on the criteria and mechanisms for filling sovereign positions.

Geneva military talks

In October, the military track of the negotiations resumed with the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) meeting in Geneva, under the direction of acting UN special envoy, Stephanie Williams.

The security track is one of the three intra-Libyan tracks, alongside economic and political tracks, which the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is working to try to bring peace to the North African country.

A permanent ceasefire was signed, with the United Nations billing it as “historic” after years of fighting.

Tunisia talks

In November, Tunisia hosted the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) which was held under the auspices of the United Nations, with 75 participants.

The forum launched to reach a fruitful dialogue to come up with a solution to the current crisis and define the next stage for building a democratic path in the country.

Williams announced the conclusion of the talks in Tunisia, without forming a unified government.

The United Nations announced that the delegates in Tunisia agreed to hold national elections on 24 December 2021. It did not specify whether these will be presidential, parliamentary, or general elections.

Several organizations criticized the LPDF, saying that some of the participating political or military forces were underrepresented.

Turkish Military Presence Extended in Libya

Last week, the Turkish Parliament voted to extend the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya, for an additional 18 months.

Turkey signed a controversial maritime agreement with the GNA last year, giving it access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean. The deal added tensions to Turkey’s ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights.