Libya, the new battlefield between Turkey and Russia

MORE INFORMATION Khalifa Hafter, the ‘strong man’ of Libya that aims to take Tripoli Russia and Turkey agree to joint control of the area, kurdish in Syria Th

Libya, the new battlefield between Turkey and Russia


Khalifa Hafter, the ‘strong man’ of Libya that aims to take Tripoli Russia and Turkey agree to joint control of the area, kurdish in Syria

The conflict in Libya is being crossed in such a way that the military forces or paramilitary forces of Turkey and Russia may be directly involved on the ground, as happened in Syria. On the one hand, the mercenaries russians support the marshal Khalifa Hafter, who controls the south and east of the country. And the other, the Turkish Government of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tightened its alliance with the so-called Government of National Unity, which controls Tripoli and Misrata. None of the two parties in conflict have the military power to defeat the other. But the direct aid of Turkey or Russia can tip the balance of a bloody form.

Khalifa Hafter announced on Thursday 12 December that it would undertake an offensive “decisive” on Tripoli. The capital is in the hands of the so-called Government of National Unity (GNA for its acronym in English), the only recognized by the UN. Hafter began the siege in April, but was forced to stay at the gates. It became so evident that his strength was not as decisive as it seemed. But now with the help of hundreds of mercenaries russians on the ground, in addition to the traditional support that we provide Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The arrival of the russians, in addition to the thousand mercenaries sudanese with that account Hafter, is unbalancing slightly on the war in favor of the marshal of libya.

On paper, the Unity Government, headed by Fayez al-Serraj is, officially, the only legitimate from Libya and has the support, also officially, the UN, the united States and the European Union. But that is only on paper. In reality, this Government just hold it in your military endeavor Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Qatar. Fayez al-Serraj has met two times in less than a month with Erdogan and has signed a military agreement and a maritime one. Now, Istanbul is willing to give a step more to the front.

Sending of Turkish troops

in early December, Erdogan announced that his country is ready to send troops to Libya “if the libyan people ask for”. Ankara and the Unity Government of Libya signed the November 27, a military cooperation agreement that includes the creation of a Rapid Reaction Force that covers the “responsibilities of military and police in Libya”, the establishment of an office of Defense Cooperation and Security “with sufficient experts and staff”, material transfer and military training, and sharing intelligence information.

The agreement was sent at the end of last week the Turkish Parliament for its processing, and, although the social-democratic opposition has criticized his economic cost, as well as “the danger for the internal security that implies sharing secret information with a political actor, in situations of war”, the Turkish Government has sufficient support for its approval.

on Sunday, December 15, Erdogan met with Al-Serraj in Istanbul, while almost nothing transpired in the meeting. A day earlier, the Foreign and Defence ministers of Turkey, had met with the president of the Unity Government in Doha (Qatar), the other major military ally of Tripoli.

The analyst and an ex military man Turkish Metin Gurcan wrote in Al-Monitor that the Turkish Armed Forces have already begun the preparations for sending military aid to Libya. This would consist of “two or three teams of amphibious assault and a company of about one hundred marines, as well as warships, and aircraft required for deployment. Yes, says the expert: should be confined to duties of military training and not combat.

“What is most needed right now in the Unity Government are air defense systems,” says Emrah Kekili, researcher, center for studies MUSHROOM “in addition to rebuild their defensive sector with the help of the know-how of Turkey”.

The local press reports that Turkish support has been limited to sending weapons, drones -whose industry has developed rapidly in recent years, and some trainers. However, Ankara denies any shipment of arms, because that would mean to officially recognize the violation of the international arms embargo decreed by the UN on Libya. The embargo will jump all parties involved, but no one assumes. Also the Kremlin denies that it has mercenaries Russian prominent in the ranks of the general Khalifa Hafter.

A group of experts that has been working for several months on the ground for the UN presented a report of 379 pages before the Security Council which ensures that the two parties in the conflict have “received arms and military equipment, technical support, and combatants are not libyans who do not comply with the sanctions relating to the arms.” The report indicates that the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, allies of the marshal Hafter) such as Turkey, “supplied weapons as usual, and sometimes blatant, with little effort to hide the source.”

The researcher Turkish Kekili raises the moral argument to justify Turkish intervention in the war in Libya. “Do not forget that Hafter directed to a militia coup. And the unity Government is the Executive recognized by the international community.” But Kekili did not shirk the interests of turks in the Mediterranean: “From the start of the war, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have supported Hafter because they know that it will be easier to control the energy resources through a dictator, and because they can undermine the interests of turks in the Mediterranean, where Greece, too, is working with Egypt to take away our legitimate rights.”

A european diplomatic who requested anonymity points out that, for the moment, Hafter "has not taken a step, but the simple announcement of the offensive part of the psychological war. Maybe Hafter does not yet have sufficient strength to invade Tripoli, but it is true that the iron grip on the capital each time becomes more narrow. That is why it is understandable that in Tripoli to get nervous and go to Erdogan. However, the price that is being charged Erdogan with the agreement of maritime signed with Libya is very high, because it affects a key actor, the European Union, and one of its members, Greece”.

The example sirius

Karim Mezran, a member of the Atlantic Center, indicates in a report of this analysis center that the international community should have supported militarily the Government of National Unity, to force Hafter to negotiate. “This is not what happened. And now we have the populations of Tripoli and Misrata fighting against four or five foreign powers that support Hafter and the rest of the world by observing and deciding not to do anything, with the exception of the prepresident turk”.

Mezran believes that if Turkey becomes the main defender of the recognised Government, instead of Europe or the united States, then all that will be needed will be an agreement between Moscow and Ankara to resolve the problem of libya. And with that agreement will be diminished “american power and european,” according to Mezrán.

The risk of the libyan conflict to degenerate into a war like that of Syria is evident. In Syria, the Russian intervention as of 2015, allowed the regime of Bashar al-Asad to regain the lost ground; while the support of Turkey has been the only thing that has allowed the rebel factions are not completely wiped out. In Libya, as in Syria, Turkey and Russia are supporting factions competing, which has not been an obstacle for their leaders, Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, pactasen truces and a certain division of territory.

The 8th of January, Erdogan and Putin are to meet in Istanbul and the issue of Libya will be one of the ones that hijack the meeting. Last Tuesday, the two leaders discussed the issue by phone and expressed their willingness to mediate between the sides in the running, as well as to support the efforts of the German Government and the UN, they intend to organise early next year a peace conference.

A pact to search for gas in the Mediterranean

A. M. / F. P.

in Addition, the pact of military cooperation, Turkey and Libya have signed in late November an agreement of demarcation of the maritime borders of their exclusive economic zones. This new design of borders would open up the passage to Turkey, to undertake explorations in search of bags subsea hydrocarbons.

Ankara and the Unity Government of Libya has already been sent to the UN on the bilateral agreement for approval. The neighbouring countries have put the cry in heaven because the boundaries overlap with the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of Egypt and Greece. As a protest to the agreement, the Greek Government has expelled from Athens to the ambassador in libya.

A european diplomatic expert on the libyan conflict, he says: “The agreement by sea between Turkey and the Unity Government in libya has shocked the UN and the European Union, as it undermines the rights of Greece and, indirectly, those of Cyprus. In the EU there has been no disparity of criterion to the hour to show solidarity with Greece”.

The controversial pact is the last measure of pressure from Ankara not to be left out of the distribution of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel have signed several agreements for the extraction and transportation of gas found under its waters, excluding Turkey. And Ankara argues that Greece used unfairly, the presence of small islands in front of the Turkish territory, as Castelórizo, to justify the extension of its exclusive economic zone to reduce to nothing the exploitation zone of turkey.

Updated Date: 26 December 2019, 09:00

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