It was one of those moments that shows the dilemma the German government faces when it comes to international conflicts. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas traveled to Benghazi three days before the Libya conference - surprisingly and probably quite desperately. He wanted to persuade Commander Chalifa Haftar to come to Berlin; what he should succeed. The official photo of this meeting shows Maas shaking Haftar's hand, visibly relieved. This conference initiated by the federal government, it simply couldn't fail. You could show yourself in good unity with a war leader.
So the conference is over and, unsurprisingly, the organizers want it to look like a great success. The decisions for the peace plan that has now been presented have already been made for a long time. Among other things, they stipulate that the parties involved in the conflict will abide by the arms embargo and prevent foreign interference; disarmament of the Libyan militias and their incorporation into state security forces are also planned. All of these are agreements that were repeatedly promised before the Berlin meeting, but were never kept. Skepticism about the sincerity of these commitments is therefore absolutely appropriate.
It actually sounds sensible at first to organize a conference for Libya in order to finally find solutions to the war that has been simmering for years: the federal government, which tries to mediate in a complicated conflict as a neutral body, which only insiders now understand - but who also has consequences for Europe.
Since the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya has continued to fall into chaos. On the one hand, the UN and EU-recognized government of Prime Minister Fajis al-Sarradsch in Tripoli: It is also supported by Italy and now also by Turkey, but is not considered to be very influential. This is opposed by rival General Chalifa Haftar, who is backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as well as by French President Emmanuel Macron. There are also dozens of militias, tribes and Islamist groups that are also struggling for power. Haftar's rebels control large parts of the country with a hard hand and are now moving towards the capital Tripoli with great brutality. The situation is, as became clear in Berlin, somewhat confusing, since everyone involved in Libya pursues their own interests. It is about securing oil and gas reserves, the maritime border - and sometime afterwards also about protecting civilians.
The conference in Berlin had one central goal: to persuade the powers that are involved in Libya from outside not to deliver more weapons to Libya - so that the war does not escalate further. It should also pave the way for real peace negotiations. Behind this is the concern of Europeans that with an increasingly full-blown proxy war, even more people could flee across the Mediterranean. The Federal Government's primary concern in the Libya conflict - as in other conflicts - is to ward off migrants and refugees, for whom Libya is an important transit state and where they live in terrible conditions.
The Germans have made themselves dependent on stronger powers
The Federal Government is less concerned with tackling the causes of the conflict sustainably or even recognizing that other forces have long since created facts. Or as the Libya expert Wolfram Lacher aptly put it in an interview with Der Spiegel : "The Berlin conference takes place in a kind of parallel reality to the actual events in Libya."
However, it is very questionable whether the points signed in Berlin can be implemented at all. Many experts consider an arms embargo to be unrealistic. For example, it is completely unclear who will ensure that the agreements are observed and how violations of the fragile ceasefire will be punished. It is unlikely that the EU will venture a military operation in Libya, as proposed by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. Instead, it seems that the federal government will be responsible for the further process of the UN.