LIBYA: NATO POWERS GET OUT THEIR CARVING KNIVES


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As reported in last week’s Trends Journal, on 19 January, nations including the U.S., Russia, UK, France, China, the United Arab Republic, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Algeria met in Berlin in an effort to negotiate a truce in the escalating Libyan civil war.
The Government of National Accord (GNA), Libya’s current, interim government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, is backed by the UN with Turkey providing military support along with economic and security aid from Qatar.
Libya’s capital, Tripoli, has been under near-constant attack since last spring by a militia commanded by Khalifa Haftar, a former U.S. CIA agent. Haftar has been receiving military and political support from Russia, Egypt, France, and the United Arab Emirates.
Conference participants called for a military truce in the ongoing deadly war, an arms embargo aimed at stopping the influx of military support by countries supporting each side and out of respect for humanitarian aid and human rights.
Following the meeting, it was reported there was a broad agreement to “commit to refraining from interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya” and urged all international actors “to do the same.”
In 2011, a U.S./UK/France coalition led the charge to overthrow the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The once-prosperous nation’s infrastructure, which was one of the most advanced in the region, was severely damaged by the U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign. Sitting on the world’s ninth largest oil reserves and also rich in mineral deposits, Libya’s strategically long Mediterranean coastline has long been a key target for foreign interests.
While the United States claims to be allied with the UN-supported GNA, last April, President Trump called Haftar to endorse the military efforts of his rebel Libyan National Army.
 
Broken Dream
Shortly after the conclusion of the conference, new tensions surfaced among NATO powers over the fate of Libya.
Last Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis travelled to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. The two leaders announced a French-Greek military agreement to combat Turkish support of the current Libyan government.
Macron accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of sending mercenaries to Libya in violation of the recent agreement at the Berlin Conference.
France, a staunch backer of Haftar, has been providing military support in the overthrow of the UN-supported regime.
At the meeting in Paris with the Greek Prime Minister, Macron also announced a “security partnership” with Greece against Turkish aggression in the Mediterranean region, promising a French military presence in the area, which, in his words, will “fully ensure the security of a region that is strategic for Europe.”
In addition to eyeing its influence in Libya, France’s alliance with Greece also relates to an ongoing dispute between Greece and Turkey over rich natural gas deposits in the waters off the Cyprus coast.
Turkish officials strongly denounced France’s increased intervention in the Mediterranean region, particularly citing Libya.
Hami Aksoy, Spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, stated, “If France wants to contribute to the implementation of decisions taken at the [Berlin] Conference, it should first stop supporting Haftar.” He added, “The main party responsible for all Libya’s problems since the beginning of the 2011 crisis is France… which unconditionally supports Haftar to have its say over the natural resources in Libya.”
TRENDPOST: Importantly noted, but long forgotten, Haftar is considered a CIA agent, and he consistently supported several attempts to topple and assassinate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Haftar moved to suburban Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., and returned to Libya following the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011. Later, he was made commander of the Libyan National Army, which had taken full control of Benghazi, the second largest Libyan city and one that contained vital oil fields.
 
Steal and Murder to Get What You Want
 Since the U.S./NATO attack on Libya in 2011, France aggressively has been intervening in Mali and the extended Sahel region south of Libya, which is rich in oil and uranium reserves.
As for Turkey, it supports the current Libyan government in part because of a deal Erdoğan signed with al-Sarraj last November, which includes both military co-operation in Libya and a redrawing of Libya’s geopolitically valuable maritime borders giving Turkey access to large gas reserves off the southern coast of Cyprus.
On 2 January, Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis, Cyprian President Nicos Anastasiades, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed an agreement, which the U.S. supports, to construct a gas pipeline in the eastern Mediterranean that is estimated to supply Europe with four percent of its annual gas needs by the middle of the decade.
 
Fighting in Libya Continues
Less than two weeks after the Berlin Conference called for a military truce, militia loyal to Haftar fired at the country’s only operating airport in an attempt to wrest control of the government backed by the UN.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya reported that foreign countries were continuing to send in weapons. UN Libyan special representative Ghassan Salamé stated last Thursday that outside countries “cynically nod and wink toward efforts to promote peace, but double down on a military solution.”
The UN also stated last Thursday that it would have to withdraw its representatives at a large refugee center in Tripoli, since it can no longer protect the asylum seekers and civilians seeking safety at the facility from military attacks by Hafter’s rebel forces.
Indeed, the Hafter forces also have severely disrupted Libyan oil production, with output plummeting from 1.3 million barrels per day to 72,000 barrels.
“This is not sustainable,” Salamé said. “We have taken a strong position for the non-involvement of oil issues with the political problem.”
On Tuesday, the two rival factions met in Geneva with UN representatives. “Both sides have come to Geneva and we have started talks in an attempt to turn the truce into a more solid one, less often violated by either side. There is an agreement to convert the truce into a lasting ceasefire, so the principle has been adopted by both sides,” Salamé said.
TREND FORECAST: Considering the numerous nations and political factions fighting to control Libya and exploit its bountiful natural resources, we forecast there will be no lasting truce.
Further, despite the drastic cut-back in Libyan oil production, Brent Crude, at around $54 per barrel, is down some 16 percent this year. And, it should be noted that prices have been falling before the fear of the Coronavirus impact on the global economy, which we forecast will be minimal.
 

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