Libya Conference: “The participating states must prove how serious they are about supporting the Berlin Process”.

17.01.2020 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in an interview with the “Passauer Neue Presse” on the conference on the civil war in Libya taking place in Berlin on Sunday.

The Federal Chancellor is hosting a summit on Libya in Berlin, but is dampening expectations. Do you expect success at the highest political level?

In recent months, at the request of the UN, we have conducted intensive negotiations with the countries that are bringing their influence to bear on the Libyan civil war. In this context, we have been able to reach agreement on many important points for the future political process in Libya. The mere fact that we have managed to do this in the present difficult situation gives us grounds to be cautiously optimistic. The situation in the region is very dynamic, however, and, at the end of the day, the participating states must themselves prove how serious they are about supporting the Berlin Process.

Which signals did you receive from rebel General Khalifa Haftar at your meeting in Benghazi?

During my visit to Libya, General Haftar made it clear that he intends to contribute to the success of the Libya Conference in Berlin. What’s more, he pledged to respect the current ceasefire. This is extremely important.

Just recently, General Haftar refused to sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow with his rival Fayez Mustafa al‑Sarraj, the head of the internationally recognised government. Is this a bad sign going forward?

We would very much welcome a ceasefire. This is particularly important for the continuation of the UN’s efforts to address the intra‑Libyan process. However, our focus in the Berlin Process is on a different factor, namely the international forces supporting the parties to the conflict from the outside. This is the precondition for facilitating the further peace process in Libya.

Turkish President Erdogan has already announced that Turkey will continue to play an active military role in Libya. Doesn’t that make a ceasefire a lost cause from the outset?

The non‑observance of the arms embargo is an enormous obstacle on the path towards a political solution in the Libyan conflict. This is why putting a stop to arms supplies is a focus of our efforts. Turkey has been on board since the beginning of the Berlin Process. It goes without saying that we expect this commitment to be taken seriously, and, incidentally, not just on Turkey’s part.

What do you expect from Russia on the path towards a peaceful solution for Libya?

I have the impression that Russia has recognised the need to make progress and achieve an international agreement in the Libyan conflict. Russia has also been involved in the process and the preparatory meetings since the outset. All of the partners involved have had ample opportunity to stake out their positions. It remains to be seen what outcome we achieve at our negotiations on Sunday, which must then be implemented by all sides.

Shouldn’t the Europeans and Americans put pressure on General Haftar and the United Arab Emirates supporting him?

The parties to the conflict, including General Haftar, are, as I said, not the primary focus of the Berlin Process. The international supporters of the conflict are, however. Our explicit aim is to get them to withdraw from the conflict. It goes without saying that our objective here is to pave the way to genuine peace negotiations.

Is Libya at risk of facing an escalation similar to that in Syria?

Libya has the potential to become the arena of a genuine proxy war that escalates more and more. This is why it’s so important now to seize this window of opportunity, which has opened up thanks to the work of recent months.

What would make the Berlin conference a success?

We hope to achieve progress in determining the framework conditions that will promote the intra‑Libyan process. We want to support efforts to implement the results of the conference, and also the further steps by the UN on the ground in Libya, with a structured follow‑up process.

There has been some respite in the conflict between the US and Iran. How can a further escalation and conflagration in the Middle East be avoided?

We’re holding intensive talks on this both with the US and Iran as well as within the EU and with the countries in the region. Three points are particularly important in this regard. Firstly, the greatest possible restraint on all sides is essential in order to bring about a genuine easing of tensions. Secondly, it’s immensely important for the stability of the entire Middle East to ensure that Iraq isn’t trampled underfoot in the course of developments in the region. And, thirdly, we must do everything in our power to ensure that terrorist organisations such as IS don’t take advantage of the current situation and gain new strength. We’ve achieved a great deal in the fight against IS in recent years. This must now be maintained and continued.

Did US President Donald Trump deceive the world when he said that US embassies and American soldiers were threatened to justify the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani?

The situation in the region had become more acute in recent weeks – and not just since Soleimani’s assassination. There have been increased numbers of protests and attacks on US installations in Iraq, which we have clearly condemned. We have heard the statements by the US regarding the backdrop to General Soleimani’s assassination. However, we lack the necessary details to make our own assessment of the tangible threat to US installations. At the present time, we’re focusing our efforts on doing everything we can to ensure that the situation doesn’t escalate further.

Iran is threatening to resume its nuclear programme. Does this render the nuclear agreement null and void?

Iran’s announcement that it will undertake steps to increasingly withdraw from its obligations under the nuclear agreement is unacceptable. This is why, together with the UK and France, we have decided, following intensive consultations, to trigger the Dispute Resolution Mechanism provided for by the JCPoA. Our objective must be to preserve the agreement. We’re therefore determined to find a diplomatic solution to ensure that Iran returns to its obligations once again. Iran continues to abide by the comprehensive transparency and control regulations of the agreement. Iran’s nuclear programme is therefore still the most closely monitored in the world. We shouldn’t put this at risk lightly.

Interview conducted by Andreas Herholz



Top of page