Libyan state disintegration

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Plumes of black smoke is seen after clashes between the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council and fighters of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, as they attempt to seize control of the airport from the council in Benghazi August 23, 2014. © REUTERS / Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Libya, just a few hundred kilometres from Europe, is now the site of the most violent crisis in North Africa. Like the conflicts in Syria or Iraq, the human suffering and displacement, the destruction and state failure involved are of great concern to Europe. The Libyan crisis, though, has an added immediacy for European states because it is from Libya’s shores that many of the migrants and refugees, but also human traffickers and foreign jihadists, set off. Like its southern border security, Europe’s energy security is also tied to Libya.

The security situation in Libya has been steadily deteriorating in the past twelve months as violence has increased, the state apparatus has gradually collapsed, and the crisis of legitimacy of the main institutions has grown more dramatic. For the second time in a year, Libya has two governments: one in the eastern city of Baida and in one in the capital Tripoli. Two parliaments, one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk, claim to be the legitimate legislative body. This institutional struggle reflects the confrontation on the ground among different armed groups which has left several hundreds dead since the beginning of July. Unfortunately, as warned in an article republished by ECFR, the parliamentary elections held on 25 June did not resolve the institutional crisis, nor has the level of violence decreased. In fact, the death toll is climbing.

This is crunch time for Libya. On 27 August, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2174, calling for an immediate ceasefire and for neighbouring countries to verify shipments to Libya to hinder weapon smuggling. The same resolution extends the sanctions regime now in place against members of the Gaddhafi regime to those contributing to violence and human rights violations.

The new UN Special Envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon (previously EU Special Envoy) is due to take office on 1 September with the daunting task of successfully concluding the negotiations between the warring factions lead by the United Nations Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The NATO summit in Wales on 4 and 5 September is also expected to discuss Libya, and a ministerial conference on international support to Libya will be held in Madrid on 17 September.

ECFR is launching a new “Conflict in Libya” page that gathers all the analysis and the policy recommendations prepared by our experts. It contains our policy briefs, commentaries, and blog posts along with audio materials and articles in the press that quote ECFR experts.

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