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.”

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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.

Tukey’s Ruling Party Explained Why the Turkish Delegation Withdrew From Palermo Conference

The Turkish governing party of Justice and Development explained the reasons that had led Turkey to withdraw its delegation from Palermo conference on Libya.

According to the spokesman of Justice and Development Party Ömer Çelik, the Turkish delegation decided to leave the international conference, held in the Italian city of Palermo, in protest of mistreatment that had been accorded to the delegation.

In contrary, there are reports saying that the decision to pull out from the Italian-led conference was made by Turkey after the Presidential Council’s head Fayez Sarraj, Parliament’s president Aguila Saleh and HCS’s chairman Khaled Mishri issued a joint statement that preserve the role of Egypt as a main guarantor of the unification of the Libyan army.

A statement shared their solidarity to continue work on unifying the Libyan military institution under the aegis of Egypt instead of turning over the issue to the United Nations as Turkey was expecting.

Ankara is believed to be as the Egypt’s main rival for leadership in the process of Libya’s army unification. Prior to Palermo conference, Turkey held a vast number of high-level meetings with the GNA officials to discussed the military cooperation between two countries and offered to contribute to the fields such as defense, military personnel training and arming.