Today, conversation with some customers swirled around the Libyan summit in Paris at French President Emmanuel Macron's behest. Warring leaders from the rival Tripoli and Tobruk-based parliaments agreed to hold elections before the end of 2018. But a question from someone who actually works in Libya and interacts with the local populations: How is it that some of the most powerful groups in Libya were not invited to the Paris summit and what does it say about a fragile deal reached in less than 24 hours?
Libya disintegrated into competing political and armed groupings after the violent disposal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. And to this day, it remains deeply fragmented between the east and west that back rival governments, parliaments, paramilitary forces and militias. We can all agree that while this meeting appeared as a positive step forward, there is no breakthrough here.
As usual, once again this is just a bleak promise to solve the country's pervasive crises through dialogue and a time frame that is anything but realistic. No agreement came to a meaningful close, as the two attending rivals only gave their vocal support to the political road map. We have told our customers not to believe or assume the rush to an agreement. The reality is reaching an accord could generate a brief moment of optimism but the risk only increases when the signatories - facing opposition by some of their allies back home - renege on their pledges. It is one thing to get the main political leaders to agree to a road map and quite another to get the people who control the territory (militias, municipalities, tribal and ethnic groups) to support it. How peaceful can Libya's elections be, given individuals and countries represented on the table in Paris continue to use or pour weapons into the country?