What is the Berlin Process?
The Berlin Process aims to support the efforts of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and his Special Representative Ghassan Salamé to end the conflict. Following the renewed outbreak of hostilities in April 2019, Salamé presented a plan to stop further military escalation and resume an intra-Libyan process of reconciliation.
The objective was, in dialogue with international actors with an influence on the parties to the conflict, to create the framework conditions for an intra-Libyan political process under the auspices of the UN. Such dialogue is vital because the conflict is primarily shaped by the behaviour of external actors. As a third step, talks will then be held between the parties to the conflict in Libya itself.
What has happened so far?
Since September 2019, several meetings have been held in Berlin between senior officials of the countries concerned and regional organisations. These talks took place at the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Foreign Office. At the same time, Federal Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas have remained in constant communication with European and international partners. For example, Foreign Minister Heiko Mass met his British, French and Italian counterparts on 7 January in order to discuss the process. Maas issued the following statement about the Berlin Process in advance of the meeting:
Libya has long since become the theatre for a proxy war and we are no longer willing to tolerate that. That is why we launched the Berlin Process. We have been talking for months to countries that are exerting influence in Libya and we seek to cause them to commit themselves to support the political process under the aegis of the United Nations.
At an Extraordinary Meeting on 11 January, the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs gave Heiko Maas the power to mediate on behalf of the EU and its member states with respect to Libya. The situation in Libya was also an important topic during the visit paid by Federal Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas to Moscow on 12 January. Now, in coordination with the UN Secretary-General, the Federal Chancellor has issued invitations to a Berlin Conference on Libya at Head of State and Government level on 19 January.
Who will attend?
The five permanent members of the Security Council (the USA, Russia, the UK, France and China) will attend, as will Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria and the Republic of the Congo. The United Nations and the European Union have also been invited, as have the African Union and the Arab League. Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar have also been invited to Berlin.
Are the warring parties on board?
Foreign Minister Maas has spoken to both Prime Minister Sarraj and General Haftar about the Berlin Process ahead of the conference. Prior to his meeting with Haftar, Maas underscored that the Berlin Process offered the parties a window to stop further military escalation:
I hope that the parties will take this opportunity to put the future of Libya back in Libyan hands. This now requires readiness to agree a genuine ceasefire and both parties’ participation in the dialogue formats proposed by the United Nations. This is not only what the EU Foreign Ministers expect. It is above all in the interests of the Libyan people.