News / Middle East

Libya Looks Toward Talks, But Quick Results Unlikely


Al Pessin

There are reports of talks between representatives of the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and members of the opposition that have been fighting to oust him since February. There is skepticism about the potential for a quick solution among analysts.

The Libyan conflict has been marked by a series of rebel advances followed by Gadhafi's regime counterattacks. Progress on the ground has been slow in spite of more than 5,000 airstrikes by NATO war planes since the end of March.

Some NATO officials have, from time to time, predicted Gadhafi’s imminent downfall, but that has not happened.

Alia Brahimi of the London School of Economics is encouraged by reports of talks to end the conflict. “In Libya the end game has to be a negotiated settlement. I think that the news today is very positive. We’ve always been hoping that there’s been a political process in the background," she said.

Brahimi says there is more to the Libyan regime than Gadhafi and his family. She says some groups - like tribes - are willing to see Gadhafi go if their interests are protected. “The only way out of this was going to be for elements of the regime to defect, to reach an agreement and then for some sort of exit strategy to be provided by them to Gadhafi. And I think the only thing that could make that scenario possible is talks," she said.

Brahimi says talks could allow both sides to avoid having to live up to their shared slogan: fight to the death.

An early advocate of western intervention is former British Ambassador to Libya Richard Dalton. He says pressure from the NATO mission, combined with internal dissent from regime supporters, will ultimately end Gadhafi’s 42-year reign.

But Dalton says it could take another two months or more to hapen. “I do believe that those pressures are steadily building up and that in due course there will be a series of risings against the Libyan regime, against Colonel Gadhafi and his family, of the kind that we saw back in February and which were so savagely suppressed. This time, if it happens I believe the result will be a change of regime in Libya," he said.

Meanwhile, the African Union has been trying to get formal Libyan peace talks going. At the end of their recent summit, leaders endorsed a plan to co-sponsor Libya talks with the United Nations and other international organizations.

But Richard Dalton says an arrest warrant recently issued for Gadhafi by the International Criminal Court makes it difficult for the United Nations to get involved, or for a new Libyan government to allow Gadhafi to stay. "There’s been some talk of him staying in Libya but outside the political struggle. I do think that was always unrealistic. It’s even more unrealistic now that there is an arrest warrant from the ICC against him," he said.

But Dalton says the ICC move will not necessarily make it more difficult for Gadhafi to flee Libya, if he decides to do so, because many countries are willing to ignore the indictment. Other analysts say it does complicate his ability to find refuge.

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