'Libya has become a hub for a proxy war' - Turkish researcher on Libya | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

10 April, Friday

'Libya has become a hub for a proxy war' - Turkish researcher on Libya

The interference of international actors has been a significant factor in deepening conflict in Libya

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Libya has dragged into protracted conflict zone as power vacuum in this country after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi has been exploited by Libyan National Army and other militia forces. North African country is already international political performance in where regional and international actors promote their own strategies. Turkey supports Tripoli which is headquarter for internationally-recognized Government of National Accord. While other regional countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, as well as Russia and France back Haftar-led Libyan National Army. Given the current situation in Libya, Ferhat Polat, the expert on Libya at the TRT World Research Centre gave an exclusive interview to Eurasia Diary.  

- Dear Polat, Libya has recently became one of the important performances in the international arena. Political power in the country has been geographically divided by western and eastern forces since the overthrow of Qaddafi regime, and there are strong fights between them that are still present. For that reason, how do you foresee the future of Libya?

Libya has been mired in chaos following the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Since then, hopes of democracy, stability and growth have been elusive. In many respects, it is considered to be a failed state, lacking a unified, representative and legitimate government, and unable to exercise nationwide authority or hold a monopoly over the use of force.

Haftar, who controls much of the east and commands the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), has been provoking an all-out military conflict in Libya. In April last year, he kicked off his offensive to capture Tripoli, the capital which hosts the internationally-recognised government of Libya - the Government of National Accord (GNA).

The timing of Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli was not accidental. It came just ten days before UN Special Representative for the Secretary-General (SRSG) Ghassan Salame had scheduled a national assembly to bring Libyans together. This is further proof of Haftar’s intention to derail the political and diplomatic process.

Haftar seems to be the main obstacle to reconciliation in Libya. Even so, he continues to enjoy political and logistical support from Egypt, UAE, France, Russia and others.

There is no doubt that without external support, Haftar would have been largely a relic of the past. The interference of some international actors has been a significant factor in deepening the political fragmentation and polarisation in Libya.

The long-term struggle in Libya may not end soon, as the country has become a hub for a proxy war. However, If the UN, one way or another, manage to stop Haftar’s supplies, a peace agreement can be reached without further delay and more armed conflict.

Turkey signed two agreements with Libya’s internationally recognized National Accord Government, headquartered in Tripoli on military and maritime security cooperation. National parliament of the Republic of Turkey approved motion on sending troops to help Tripoli in fighting against eastern forces led by Haftar. What strategic interests does Turkey have in Libya? 

Turkey has supported the UN-backed Tripoli Government of National Accord (GNA) from the onset. This step aimed to achieve a just, comprehensive, lasting and peaceful solution based on international legitimacy and international initiatives. The resulting political agreement, also known as the Skhirat agreement (LPA), was signed in December 2015 with the hope of transcending the country’s political divide.

Haftar, a warlord seeking to take over the country by force, has consistently refused to adhere to the LPA or to recognise the legitimacy of the GNA. As a result, he has continuously rejected peace proposals and initiatives.

The Turkish government has concerns that the Libyan civil war could have a spillover effect, leading to protracted instability, and providing anti-Turkey forces with more leverage in the entire region. Therefore, Turkey has adopted strategies to counter this broader regional competition.

Recently, Turkey and Libya signed two significant agreements one is on maritime deal, another one is military cooperation agreement which both of them ratified by Turkish Parliament and Libyan legitimate government.

A maritime delimitation agreement with the United Nation backed- Government of National Accord which gives rights to Turkey and Libya to exploit natural resources including oil and gas and prevent fait accompli in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Turkish troops have begun deploying to Libya in a bid to prop up the UN-recognised government in Tripoli which could create a condition to bring a ceasefire and prevent Haftar. Turkey primarily wants to ensure peace and stability in Libya as well as contribute to efforts to prevent the ongoing civil war there to further deepen.

-Yesterday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin touched on Libyan crises in discussion along with Syria and other issues ahead of the ceremony of Turkstream pipeline. What do you think, leaders of both countries will make common positive steps for peace in Libya or they will again encounter confrontation as like Syria?

Presidents, Erdoğan and Putin talked about the situation in Libya where they support rival camps. The Turkish president has informed that the deployment of the Turkish troops has gradually begun for the protection of the U.N.-backed government. While Russia backs warlord Haftar who controls much of eastern Libya but has failed to capture Tripoli.

Countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and France have long supported warlord Haftar financially and militarily. In addition, the recent Russian overt involvement in the Libyan civil war is an important development, which further fuels war and bloodshed.

Without these foreign actors, Haftar’s self-described Libyan National Army (LNA), cannot sustain its operations. Such a support has also made Haftar reject any political settlement, preferring to seize the entire Libyan territory by force.

Erdoğan and Putin, have issued a joint call on all parties to stop hostilities as of Jan. 12 after a bilateral meeting in Istanbul on January 8th which is significant development. If these two countries work together in Libya, this could be leveraged and bring some sort of consensus to reach an agreement to end the conflict as a result, it could provide short-term stability.

Regional countries-Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Turkey, as well as Russia have their own plans on Libya. However, we still see more presence of the US in Iraq than Libya.   From your viewpoint, will Washington indicate any strategic plan in Libya?

The power vacuum after the overthrow of Gaddafi enabled militias groups to gain a foothold in Libya. One of these groups, known as Ansar al Sharia, carried out the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the Ambassador to Libya. 

America’s main priority in Libya has been security, and in 2017 Trump said that he did not foresee role of the United States in Libya beyond counter-terrorism.

What Libya urgently needs nowadays is the establishment of the rule of law and the elimination of the culture of impunity. Can Haftar provide that? Negotiations and a political process are not part of Haftar's plan - he only cares about expanding his power across the country.

The international community should take urgent action in order to save lives in Libya. If its response to the Libyan civil war remains as sketchy as it has been so far, it could lead to more tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea


Interview by Yunus Abdullayev







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