Egypt and Libya’s roadmap

Egypt is playing a key role in preparation for the anticipated comprehensive talks on Libya, scheduled for October in Geneva, based on the outcomes of the Berlin Conference.

For months, Egypt has been hosting preliminary Libyan meetings, the last of which took place in Hurghada in the attendance of the Libyan security committee charged with the ceasefire, military arrangements to unify the military institution and security apparatuses, and the security arrangements concerning moving the next Libyan government to Sirte, as a temporary capital.

In the near future, Cairo will host other Libyan events, such as that of the constitutional committee, which will draft the framework of Libya’s constitutional document. Libya’s economic committee, delegations from east and west Libya, prime among whom are political, security, and military leaders, figureheads and diplomats from countries involved in the settlement process, and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSML) will also converge in Cairo.

Egypt’s integral role in drawing a roadmap for the future of Libya post the Skhirat Agreement is a continuation of its efforts in the previous transitional phase, which were hampered by the complex crises Libya has endured since 2016. Flagrant foreign interventions fuelled political conflicts and military clashes during the Tripoli battle. These developments led Egypt to become more careful in dealing with the roots of the Libyan crisis through a set of basic principles based on the lessons learnt in the previous stage. 

These principles include the fair distribution of wealth and power. Moreover, the Cairo Declaration, followed by the Sirte-Jufra announcement concerning the “western military zone”, has put an end to armed clashes between Libyan factions, putting on the table the political path as the only means to settle the crisis.

The UN Security Council, the UNSML, and the US have commended Cairo’s efforts in the Libyan file. The international community’s impression about Cairo’s role in settling the Libyan crisis reflects Egypt’s seriousness and ability to shift the course of events towards the internationally-agreed path – the Berlin Conference outcomes. 

Egypt has been stressing joint coordination, which also reflects it is not seeking to achieve its own interests nor trying to impose a certain political authority on the Libyans. Egypt is seeking agreement between all the Libyan factions to stabilise the country torn by political and armed conflicts for a decade.

Cairo has dedicated all its political, diplomatic, and security resources to support a political settlement for Libya. The Egyptian leadership, represented by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, is paying attention to the minutest details concerning the Libyan file. Cairo has spared no effort, on the Libyan and international stages, to prevent obstacles aiming to hinder the political path.

A number of parties active in the Libyan scene are seeking their own benefits. Cairo doesn’t oppose foreign parties trying to serve their interests in Libya. It objects, however, to the mechanisms they are using to claim their interests, either through moving mercenaries into Libya or being militarily present on the Libyan ground.

This is why Cairo, in coordination with other partners, is endeavouring to end these practices, highlighting this point at every event it hosts on Libya.

Egypt is fully aware its role is not limited to drawing a roadmap for Libya’s future. More important are the implementation of the roadmap’s recommendations and overcoming challenges on the Libyan stage in the next phase.


Morocco to host new round of Libyan peace talks Sunday

Talks will focus on managing the transitional period and leaders in key posts

Morocco’s coastal town of Bouznika, south of the capital Rabat, will host the second round of talks between parties to the Libyan conflict on Sunday.The first round was held this month.

According to Moroccan diplomatic sources who spoke to Sky News Arabia, the talks are meant to pinpoint the mechanism of hiring leaders in key posts in the war-torn country.

Head of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and President of the High Council of State (HCS) Khaled Al-Mashri will likely join the meetings, Sky New Arabia reported.

Talks will tackle preparations for October’s meetings in Geneva, which will include discussions on details of the post-conflict transitional period, including the restructuring of state institutions.

Libya has been divided between two authorities in Tripoli and Tobruk for six years. While the Government of National Accord (GNA) is based in the capital Tripoli, Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) controls the east and is allied to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.

The LNA is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France and Russia, while the GNA is backed by Turkey, Qatar and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

On 22 August, both parties to the conflict declared a ceasefire that ended fears about possible GNA aggression against the port city of Sirte, 370 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli, and Jufra, which has a major military airbase.

GNA head Fayez Al-Sarraj announced on Facebook that he “issued instructions to all military forces to immediately cease fire and combat operations in all Libyan territories.”

Saleh announced a ceasefire which was welcomed by world leaders. Libyan powers agreed to hold elections in March 2021.

In Bouznika, both parties agreed on the “criteria, transparent mechanisms and objectives” for key power positions.

After Morocco’s talks, the UN’s interim envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams called on the “international community to shoulder its responsibilities to support this process and to unequivocally respect the Libyan people’s sovereign right to determine their future.”


EU imposes sanctions on Turkish company for breaking U.N. arms embargo on Libya

The European Union imposed sanctions on Monday on a Turkish shipping company for breaking the United Nations arms embargo on Libya, Reuters said.

The EU froze assets of Avrasya Shipping whose cargo ship, Çirkin, accused of smuggling weapons to Libya and involved in an incident on June 10 in which the French frigate Courbet said it was illuminated by the targeting radar of a Turkish warship escorting a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Courbet was part of NATO’s Sea Guardian operation, which helps provide maritime security in the region. France said it was acting on intelligence from NATO that the Turkish-escorted ship was suspected of trafficking arms to Libya.

“The Çirkin has been linked to transports of military material to Libya in May and June 2020,” Reuters cited the EU’s Official Journal as saying.

Turkey has been denying arms trafficking allegations and said the ship was carrying humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.

The EU has a naval mission to support the U.N. embargo on Libya and the Courbet was part of NATO’s Sea Guardian operation, which helps provide maritime security in the region.

Turkey and France back opposing sides in Libya’s civil war. Turkey is supporting the U.N.-recognised, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in its fight against eastern-based rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which is backed by Russia, Egypt, and France, among others.


Libya’s Haftar says army has decided to resume output of oil

Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar said on Friday his forces would let oil production resume after an eight-month blockade and a senior politician in Tripoli said a committee would be formed to ensure fair distribution of revenues.

However, National Oil Corporation (NOC), which operates Libya’s energy sector, said overnight it would not lift force majeure on exports until oil facilities were demilitarised.

Libya and many of its state institutions have been split for years between the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and Haftar’s (LNA in the east.

“It was decided to resume production and export of oil with all the necessary conditions and procedural measures that ensure a fair distribution of its financial revenues,” Haftar said in a televised broadcast.

In Tripoli, the GNA’s deputy prime minister, Ahmed Maiteeg, issued a statement immediately after Haftar’s speech also saying it “had been decided” to resume oil production and adding this would involve a new committee to oversee revenue distribution.

The committee would coordinate between the two sides to prepare a budget and transfer funds to cover payments and deal with the public debt, he said.

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said on Wednesday he planned to step down by the end of October and analysts have said this would lead to political jockeying among other senior figures in Tripoli to succeed him.


Heavy international pressure seen behind Sarraj’s resignation in Libya

Ankara’s relations with Tripoli could definitely be seriously affected by the resignation, if it ever comes to pass.

The resignation of the head of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, took the Libyans by surprise, even though several leaks in the press about a week ago should have prepared them for it.

The move constituted a surprise because not long ago before that, Sarraj was involved in a power struggle with his Minister of the Interior and his rival Fathi Bashagha, who was leading an indirect incitement campaign against him by encouraging Libyans to take to the streets and protest against rampant corruption.

While some view Sarraj’s resignation as a procedural step to pave the way for the next government of national unity, others see it as reflecting the failure of his attempts to prevent his being excluded from the scene, especially when Bashagha was reinstated in his post of Minister of the Interior.

Despite the cautious welcome given to this step, there was still divergent opinions in Libya about its seriousness and about its implications. There were also serious questions raised about the fate of the controversial agreements Sarraj had signed with Turkey.

Many believe that Sarraj’s resignation was brought about by strong US pressure with the purpose of appeasing international parties disturbed by the agreements he signed with Turkey, especially the maritime border demarcation agreement that angered the Europeans in general and France and Greece in particular.

Oliver Owcza, Germany’s ambassador to Libya, hastened to welcome the step. “President Sarraj’s decision deserves respect, given that the transfer of power represents a challenge to any country,” he wrote on Twitter.

Over the past few months, there were reports about France’s intention to present a draft resolution to the UN Security Council to withdraw the legitimacy of the GNA.

Statements by Amari Zayed, a member of the Libyan Presidential Council and a former leader in the Libyan Fighting Group and affiliated with the extremist movement known for its great loyalty to Turkey, confirm reports about Turkey’s concern over Sarraj’s resignation.

“The legitimacy that is relied upon is not linked to any person, regardless of his position, but rather to a political agreement that was the best in existence,” Zayed told the press, noting that this legitimacy was strengthened by the “revolutionaries” (referring to the militias) who had taken over the Presidential Council to preserve “the goals of the revolution,” and that these “revolutionaries” have the right to participate in the political decision and that nobody will be allowed to marginalise them.

Fayez al-Sarraj had announced on Wednesday evening, in a videotaped speech addressed to the Libyan people, his intention to formally resign from the presidency of the GNA at the end of next October. This remarkable development did not seem to be isolated from the equally sudden announcement only four days ago of the resignation of the parallel government in eastern Libya headed by Abdullah al-Thinni.

“I announce to everyone my sincere desire to hand over my duties to the next executive authority no later than next October, hoping that the Libyan Dialogue Committee will have completed its work by then, selected a new presidential council and chosen a head of government to whom to hand over the duties, according to the outcomes of the Berlin Conference that were approved by the UN Security Council,” Sarraj said in his speech.

Some observers went as far as to say that Sarraj wanted with this speech to pave the way for his exit from the Libyan scene with the least damage, yet Libyan parliamentarian, Ziad Daghim, did not hesitate to welcome Sarraj’s commitment to step down at the end of next month.

Daghim told The Arab Weekly by phone that Sarraj’s decision “is worthy of respect as it shows a consideration for the supreme public interest, and we should not also forget his other recent important national decisions, including declaring a ceasefire and refraining from escalating the war.”

He further considered the decision “a serious step by which he (Sarraj) dropped the ball in the others’ court, and it must be met with openness, and all of al-Sarraj’s sources of concern, if any, must be addressed.”

The mood was different, however, among the Islamists. Saad al-Jazwi, a member of the Libyan Advisory Council affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, was sceptical about Sarraj’s decision and tied it to external diktats. He considered Sarraj’s intended resignation “not the result of the terrible mismanagement conditions prevailing in the country during the past years, but rather came in line with the international project for Libya.”

Speaking this past Wednesday night on the Libya Panorama TV channel, Jawzi said that Sarraj’s televised speech “came as a result of international diktats that want to push Libya into another transitional stage.”

“We expected Sarraj to put in place practical measures for real remedies to the sufferings of the Libyan citizens, but instead he placed us in the international context by declaring that he will leave them (the practical measures) to the government that will be established through the dialogue committee, without adding anything new about the suffering of the Libyan people,” he added.

Most political interpretations of this particular development were almost all unanimous that Sarraj was subjected to strong pressures related to international arrangements being prepared in several Western capitals, especially in Washington, for a quick settlement in Libya through reshaping the political scene before the coming US elections.

Such interpretations stemmed from American reports of about a week ago confirming Sarraj’s intention to announce his resignation soon, in coordination with Turkey, which is still controlling the balance of power between the political forces in western Libya, although all indications confirm that Ankara’s relations with Tripoli will definitely be seriously affected by this resignation if it ever comes to pass.


UN welcomes Libyan Prime Minister’s decision to step down

The United Nations welcomes the decision by Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister to step down by the end of October, a UN statement released Thursday said.

The Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, announced his decision in a televised speech on Wednesday.
“I declare my sincere desire to hand over my duties to the next executive authority no later than the end of October,” al-Sarraj said, citing “internal and external conspiracies” and other obstacles to the effectiveness of his government.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Stephanie Williams commended the decision in a statement, saying it “comes at a decisive turning point in Libya’s longstanding crisis when it is clear that the situation is no longer sustainable.”
“The onus is now on concerned Libyan parties to fully shoulder their responsibilities before the Libyan people, to take historic decisions, and to accept mutual concessions for the sake of their country,” Williams said.

Turkey as a destabilising factor

Turkey under the Erdogan regime has intensified its traditional revisionist and destabilising policy that it implemented in various forms in the recent historical past. Many states in the greater region realise by now the implication of Turkey in an ongoing and ever escalating revisionist and confrontational policy. Turkey’s destabilisation projects manifest themselves with varying degrees of success in a perceived periphery of states over which Ankara aims to project military power or strategic influence. The two Hellenic states, Greece and Cyprus, were and continue to be the primary targets of this revisionist policy that Turkey has pursued initially vis-à-vis Greece and Cyprus since the 1970s. Now, Turkish revisionism has been felt by other states as well, as it has spread over the last decade, affecting to a varying degree in the recent historical past Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya and the greater region of the Eastern Mediterranean in general.

In Syria, Turkey’s destabilising actions have reached a focal turning point. As the Bashar Al-Assad regime is steadily regaining territorial control over the north-western part of the country, restoring Syrian national sovereignty, Turkey attempts to maintain a disruptive presence in the greater region of Idlib with direct military interference inside Syrian territory. Turkish military operations in Syria take advantage of close ties Turkey has developed over recent years with Russia. The cooperation between Turkey and Russia is limited on a tactical level and does not extend on a strategic level, where the conflict of interests between the two actors is now evident with massive losses for Turkish forces. Turkey aims to permanently destabilise Syria and avert the possibility of any Kurdish proto-political structures on its borders.

In Libya, Turkey provides continued military and operational support to the Fayez Al-Sarraj government of Tripoli that itself is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the most vicious and dangerous Islamist organisation of modern times. Turkey continues, until recently, the deployment of both military equipment for the crumbling Tripoli regime and Syrian Islamist terrorists that fight against the Libyan National Army. According to reports, the Syrian Islamist fighters deployed by Turkey in Libya amount to 4,700. Concerning other countries of Northern Africa, Turkey is hostile towards Egypt, a hegemonic power in the Arab world, while it also pursues establishing naval or military bases in Algeria and Tunisia, albeit unsuccessfully so far. Turkish interference in Libya took its most aggressive diplomatic form with the signing in late November of the two Memoranda of Understanding between Turkey and Al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord.

The Memorandum of Understanding for the delimitation of maritime zones between Turkey and the Tripoli government, an illegal action from the point of international law, serves Turkish geostrategic ambitions against Greece and Egypt. Specifically, Turkey’s main concern is the disruption of the evolving strategic alliance between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus and the extended cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt with the support of the United States in energy and security issues. The existence of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Tripoli regime and its violations of international law forms a threat to the strategic interests of Egypt, as well as Greece and Cyprus.

In Egypt, the failure of Turkish interference is evident over the recent period. During the last decade, Turkey’s destabilisation plans included extensive support for the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood and for terrorist groups in Sinai (Hamas members and local Islamists) with shipments of guns. Egypt’s dynamic comeback under President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has diminished Turkish ambitions in the Arab world.

Towards neighbouring Greece, Turkey uses migration flows as a strategic weapon in order to destabilise Greece. Turkey uses illegal migration as part of its hybrid warfare against Greece and the European Union. Turkey’s strategic use of migration is a form of demographic terrorism aimed directly against Greek sovereignty. Greece, a NATO and EU member, is the only neighbouring state of Turkey in the scenario of a military confrontation that can cause considerable military damage to Turkey due to its considerable air and naval forces and the proximity of major Turkish urban centres to Greece’s geopolitical centre, the Aegean Sea. Greece has the 16th strongest air force globally in total fighter and interceptor aircraft fleet strength.

Turkey’s revisionist policy forms part of an approach that includes specific short-term and mid-term goals all in service of a greater strategic neo-Ottoman vision. Turkey aspires to:

– Enhance its regional role in the Eastern Mediterranean and its southern land borders in Western Asia through the use of political, diplomatic and military means. Turkey aspires to obtain hegemonic status throughout the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, although this attempt has failed dramatically and is now in its death throes.

– Increase its military presence abroad on an independent basis (ie, outside the legal framework of NATO). This attempt of Turkey includes the use of foreign mercenaries that shall operate in various local fields in countries of interest. This policy has so far been implemented in Syria, where Turkey initially supported the Islamic State and then other radical Islamist groups, in Libya with the transfer and deployment of foreign mercenaries, and in the Sahel region with the indirect support of terrorist groups. In this manner, Turkey aims to create a nexus of military influence that will implement its neo-Ottoman vision, either through direct implication or with a network of proxies.

– Project the growing capabilities of its developing defence industry with the corresponding use of exported military equipment manufactured by Turkish companies.

– Project the capabilities of its state-owned petroleum company (TPAO) with the use of drilling ships and research vessels. In this manner, Turkey aspires to obtain an economic presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and potentially also in other seas in the future on a cooperation basis.

Turkey’s revisionist policy against the national interests of many states of the Eastern Mediterranean does not remain unanswered. New regional alliances are being forged gradually in the Eastern Mediterranean on a diplomatic, economic and military levels. On a diplomatic level, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt are working closely together for a considerable period establishing networks of mutual assistance. In the field of energy cooperation, the East Mediterranean Gas Forum has been founded by a network of closely working states in the region. Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and Israel are members of the seven-member East Mediterranean Gas Forum formed in 2019 with the declared aims of creating a regional gas market serving the interests of its members by ensuring supply, optimising resource development, rationalising the cost of infrastructure, offering competitive prices and improving trade relations. On the military level, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus have conducted numerous joint military exercises projecting air and sea power over an extended area and in their respective Exclusive Economic Zones. This military cooperation could be significantly upgraded with the signing of extensive military cooperation memoranda. States of the region also enhance their capabilities individually, not in order to take part in regional antagonisms but to safeguard regional stability and their respective national interests.

Egypt has over the last decade successfully overcome the negative consequences of the Islamist takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood with the establishment of the government of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. Egypt’s growing confidence and her leading role in the greater region is evident in a number of diplomatic initiatives and the strengthening of Egypt’s position in the Global Firepower Index for 2020, where Egypt occupying ninth place surpassed Turkey. 

Greece has intensified its diplomatic ties and military cooperation with the major Western sea power, the United States. In January 2020, Greece’s parliament ratified the updated Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States for a major expansion of military cooperation, as tension between Greece and Turkey escalates. According to the new agreement, Greek military bases and facilities shall be used for increased joint US-Greece and NATO activities in strategic points of Greek territory (ie, in Alexandroupolis, a port at the border with Turkey that oversees the Dardanelles Straits, and at the Souda Bay US Naval Base on the island of Crete, the most important US base in the Mediterranean Sea). Greece also cooperates closely with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Greece has deployed some of its Patriot defence missiles to Saudi Arabia under a programme involving the US, Britain and France, in order to aid Saudi Arabia to deal with potential Iranian aggression. Cyprus has strengthened its links to both the United States and France which has increased drastically its military and diplomatic presence and initiatives in the Mediterranean.

The destabilising actions of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean demonstrate Turkish revisionism and imperial ambitions. Still, they create a counterbalance by a network of states that aims to maintain international security on an inter-state level and the national interests of each state on a national level. In this context, the deepening of military, diplomatic and economic cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt benefits their national interest agenda and their interlinked strategic goals.

Can Africa help bring stability to Libya?

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says that as African Union (AU) chairperson this year, his peace and security priorities will focus on resolving South Sudan and Libya’s crises. The AU has been asserting, with increasing vigour, that it must be included in attempts at brokering peace and bringing stability to Libya. The AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) has also laid out clear next steps for its efforts there.

At its summit a month ago, the AU proposed sending a fact-finding mission comprising African chiefs of defence from the five regions. This will be done in collaboration with the United Nations (UN). Heads of state also decided to upgrade the AU Liaison Office in Libya so it has more diplomatic and military capacity. The AU chairperson has been tasked with determining funding options for the two decisions.

It was the second African-led meeting on Libya in 10 days, following the Berlin conference involving several role players and the Geneva meeting that brought together the military leaders of the two main Libyan factions.

Many believe South Africa and Ramaphosa can use their peacemaking and mediation experience to help settle the conflict in Libya. South Africa may also want to repair a potential mistake when the country voted in favour of the 2011 UN Security Council resolution that opened the door to foreign intervention in Libya.

Asharq Al-Awsat: French Carrier Spots Turkish Frigate Escorting Delivery of Armored Vehicles to Tripoli

France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier this week spotted a Turkish frigate escorting a cargo ship delivering armored vehicles to the Libyan capital Tripoli in defiance of a UN embargo, a French military source said.

The cargo ship Bana docked in Tripoli port on Wednesday, said the source, who asked not to be named.

The armored vehicles were apparently intended for the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Libya’s warring parties are led by Libyan National Army (LNA) chief Khalifa Haftar and Sarraj.

UN special representative for Libya Ghassan Salame accused foreign actors Thursday of continuing to meddle in Libya’s conflict, in violation of commitments made at the Berlin Conference this month.

Speaking before the UN Security Council, Salame warned that “these maneuvers to resupply the two parties threaten to precipitate a new and much more dangerous conflagration.”

“They violate the spirit and the letter of the Berlin Conference,” Salame said in an impassioned briefing in front of the 15-member council.

“I urge the parties and their foreign sponsors to desist from reckless actions and instead renew their expressed commitment to work towards a ceasefire,” he added.

World leaders committed to ending all foreign interference and to uphold a weapons embargo to help end Libya’s war during the conference in the German capital on January 19.