Berlin conference wants to ensure that Libya is not the “next Syria”
According to information from the Guardian militia fighters have signed 6-month contracts directly with the Libyan unitary government
An estimated 2,000 Islamist militia fighters from Syria are said to be currently in Libya. A number that is far higher than previous estimates. They are said to have also come from Idlib, via Turkey.
According to information from the Guardian, which is based on sources within the Syrian National Army militia alliance, militia fighters have signed 6-month contracts directly with the Libyan unitary government – “not with the Turkish army”. The wages are said to be the equivalent of an impressive $ 2,000 a month.
They were also offered Turkish citizenship and medical treatment in the event that they were wounded.
Now one can doubt the sources, statements from militia circles are not necessarily reliable, but Jordan Abdullah, in a recent interview with France 24, also said that “several thousand hardcore fighters, ‘foreign fighters’, are leaving Idlib across the northern border and have arrived in Libya “. Turkey sent them. “It will only create more unrest and confusion.”
King Abdullah, too, may not necessarily be able to provide a precise representation of reality, as critics accuse him of having a problem with the Syrian Islamists / jihadists in Libya, but is evident, for example, in the reaction of the tribes in the south and east of Libya. They call for the closure of oil plants in the country. Because they don’t see that Libyan money is being spent on Syrian mercenaries.
Erdogan: “We send our troops to Libya”
How to respond to the tribal protest is another matter. But the excitement is an example of the consequences of Turkey’s interference. The use of foreign troops mobilizes resistance in Libya. Yesterday, Turkish President Erdogan announced that “we are sending our troops to Libya to preserve the legitimate government and ensure stability.”
How many members of the Turkish military are being sent to Libya or are already there is still no precise information. Like so many other background events in the North African crisis country, this is not communicated openly.
According to experts, it is clear that Turkey, with its drones and other weapons, could cause serious damage to its opponent’s air force, the LNA under the command of Khalifa Haftar, and could paralyze it, which would more or less eliminate the LNA’s military capabilities.
The fact that Turkey is not so easy to resort to this military solution has to do with the political wheels that are part of the conflicts in Libya. Turkey cannot do a solo act. This contrasts with the interests of Russia, for example, where there is support for the GNA and Turkey, but also for the opposing party under the leadership of Haftar.
Egypt, which supports Haftar and whose leadership made it clear that Turkey’s official military aid for the GNA since the end of last year has come pretty close to a “declaration of war”, is also turning to “sidelines”. The Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency in Cairo has been devastated.
It is also worth mentioning that Field Marshal Haftar went on a trip to Athens yesterday. The Greek head of government took this as an opportunity to once again declare his opposition to the maritime agreement between Turkey and the Libyan unity government – this concerns natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean. With this agreement, Turkey is asserting its claims in cooperation with the Libyan GNA government, the EU rejects this as well as the Republic of Cyprus and Israel.
Berlin invites big (but not Greece)
The Greek prime minister announced that he would disagree with the circumstances of an EU peace deal for Libya: “Simply put, we will veto”. He added: “It was a mistake that we were not invited (to the Berlin conference, note d. A).”
As you can see, the framework conditions for the Berlin conference on Libya are complex and broad. This is borne out by the long list of those invited, among whom Greece would have liked to be:
“USA, Russia, Great Britain, France, China, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Republic of Congo, Italy, Egypt, Algeria, as well as the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League. Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj and General Chalifa Haftar are also invited to Berlin.”
In the end, the aim of the conference, which takes place this weekend, is to provide a roadmap for the “political process” in Libya. The main point highlighted is a process that should lead to the disarmament of the militias. For this purpose, a surveillance mechanism is to be set up, which according to the current status is to be equipped with officers from the two opposing camps.
A political road map for Libya
Based on the experiences of the past few years in Libya, observers are skeptical whether the conference can bridge the gap between a complicated reality on the ground and the set targets. As only roughly outlined above, the confusing reality includes the many involved parties who are interested in Libya, domestic and foreign, from tribes, local and regional interests of militias to strong regional powers, Turkey and the United Emirates to the Great Powers USA and Russia.
Yesterday, the German Foreign Minister Maas announced a success. He visited Khalifa Haftar at his headquarters in Benghazi, Libya, and the strong man of the internationally recognized parliament in eastern Libya agreed to an armistice. How reliable this is and how long it will last is the crux with which the conference agreements will have to do.
After all, the skepticism of the Libya experts is relativized by one factor. High-ranking guests are expected in Berlin, such as the U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo and his Russian colleague Lavrov, who could ensure relevant agreements and thus take a step that increases the value of political solutions, so the – limited – hope of experts who is justified with the great attention that the conference pays to its participants.
However, commitments are likely to fade again when the conference and Libya disappear from attention again.
The German government’s goal is to “stop the flow of arms and fighters from abroad”. After everything that is known about the “engagement” and interests of Turkey or the United Arab Emirates – and about the powerful ideological undercurrents with which both countries are connected (to put it bluntly: taking sides for or against the Muslim Brothers) -, the goal is far away. [end]
The author of the article is Thomas Pany. Thomas Pany studied political science with Kurt Sontheimer at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, plus modern history and Semitic studies. The original article has been published in Telepolis. Translation and editing by Defenseweek’s team.