19 June 2020   Leave a comment

Libya has been in a constant state of conflict since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country has a number of different factions, but there are two large contending powers in Libya: the UN backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and a rebel group led by Khalifa Haftar known as the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the eastern city of Benghazi. For the last 14 months, Haftar, backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Russia and Egypt, has led a campaign to take the city of Tripoli. But in the last few days, the GNA, backed by Turkey, has launched a counterattack that has re-established its control over western Libya.

The US had backed Hafter in 2019, but changed its position after the intervention of Turkey. According to AlJazeera:

“Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced ‘some agreements’ had been reached with US President Donald Trump, which could usher a ‘new era between the US and Turkey regarding the [Libya] process’.

“US policy has seen a significant shift from April 2019 when Trump telephoned Haftar and expressed encouragement for his military operation to seize Tripoli.”

“‘I think we can expect to see a greater diminishing of any US hope that Haftar can be a unifying figure for the country, or obviously achieve victory,’ Wehrey (Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) said.”

Interestingly, Turkey and Russia are opposed in Libya along the same lines of their opposing positions in Syria. Russia is looking to expand its influence in the Middle East after it successfully support President Assad in Syria. Russia is also interested in the oil fields which are largely in the eastern part of Libya. Turkey is also interested in establishing a sphere of influence in the Mediterranean, reminiscent of the rule of the Ottoman Empire. There are also other powers interested in assuring that their interests in the region are well protected. All these outside powers are making the situation in Libya even more unstable.

Even proposals for ending the violence have been undermined by outside powers. Egypt brokered what is called the Cairo Declaration with Haftar on 6 June which suggested that the negotiations between the GNA and the LNA should be direct. But an alternative approach, using the UN as a mediator, has been endorsed by several states who agreed upon a multilateral framework last January in what is known as the Berlin Conference. The US finds itself now working with Turkey and its Islamist agenda against the Russians. But the shift in US policy suggests that the Libyan policy is still being actively debated and that there is no set policy at this time.

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Posted June 19, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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