Berlin peace summit has shown that Russia and Turkey still have an important role to play as they are among very few countries that can really influence the situation in Libya, Yusuf Erim, a Turkish foreign policy expert said.

A peace conference on Libya convened in Berlin has definitely succeeded in bringing together a host of world leaders to try and find a way out of a civil war plaguing the war-ravaged land for years, Erim told RT. Yet, it also clearly showed that very few nations can really move the Libyan peace process forward as most are lacking a strategy and will to translate words into action.

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“We saw a lot of good intentions but a lack of ability to implement them on the ground, so a big role is still left for Turkey and Russia,” the editor-at-large at the Turkish state international news broadcaster TRT World, said.  The conference showed that European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron have no “clear roadmap” they could use to break the deadlock, he argued.

The conference only made the role of Russia and Turkey that already acted as “major brokers” on the ground even before the talks in Berlin even more “evident,” Erim believes.

“The will [of Russia and Turkey] to bring about a political solution will be a key for today’s conference to have any meaning in the future.”

Even though the Berlin conference participants agreed on a set of “detailed proposals” on virtually every aspect of the future crisis resolution, there is still a long way ahead to a lasting peace in Libya, partly because the two major warring parties are still struggling to reconcile the differences that prevent them from even sitting down together at the negotiations table.

“[Fayez] al-Sarraj [PM of the UN-backed Government of National Accord] and [Khalifa] Haftar [commander of the Libyan National Army] were not in the same room [in Berlin], so we see that they are still very distant from each other,” Erim said.

French President Emmanuel Macron meets Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar before the start of the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020. © Reuters / Libyan National Army

The fact that Haftar and al-Sarraj are still not ready to meet face-to-face is not exactly surprising, but it does not instill optimism either, Ayo Johnson, Founder of Viewpoint Africa, told RT, noting that it’s too much at stake for both to leave things to chance.

They are bitter enemies, there is a lot at stake – the world’s largest oil and gas reserves on the African continent besides Libya being a pivotal junction for many migrants to reach Europe.  

That mutual animosity could spell trouble to the shaky ceasefire the two sides joined in the night on January 12, that already has been marred by reports of repeated violations. 

Mark Almond, Director of Crisis Research Institute, told RT that he believes the main problem with the ceasfire is that there is no enforcement mechanism to make the rival forces, who don’t trust each other in the least, hold their end of the bargain. In addition to that, while the ceasefire that holds “could possibly be in the interest of both sides,” it would be quite a challenge to get “various cohorts” embroiled in the civil on war to jump on board, he noted.

Arguing that a peacekeeping force might be necessary to guarantee the truce, Almond said that hardly any country seems to be willing to take such a risk.

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 “I don’t see anybody wanting to send troops to Libya, wanting to put their soldiers at risk of being shot at on the ground.”

Deploying a peacekeeping force to Libya might be indeed a solution, according to Erim, who said that such a contingent “would definitely” be required to make sure a “a buffer zone between the two sides,” is maintained.

Yet, deploying troops to Libya is an option that the European nations are most likely to forgo, the Erim believes.

It does not look like the EU has enough risk appetite to send troops on the ground

Here, it once again falls to Moscow and Ankara to convince the warring parties to uphold the ceasfire, Erim said, noting that Italy, for its part, expressed its desire to “maintain a military presence on the ground.”

Moscow and Ankara already have a positive experience of taking effective de-confliction measures in a situation when all previous talks failed. That is what happened in Syria when Russia, Turkey and Iran  “got together to form the Astana group” and then “took some very meaningful decisions on the ground,” Erim explained, suggesting the trio of Russia, Turkey and Italy can replicate this success.

I see no reason why the same successful formula cannot be implemented for Libya with Turkey, Russia and Italy.

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