THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Libya is receiving military support from many different countries with different agendas as conflict continues between the UN and Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar and backed by the UAE and Russia. A new U.S. report states that Turkey has deployed thousands of Syrian mercenaries to war-torn Libya to fight alongside the U.N.-backed GAN troops. According to U.S. Africa Command, Syrian mercenaries are responsible for increased reports of theft and sexual assault, which may increase resentment among the Libyan population. The report also states that Turkey has sent hundreds of its own operators for Turkish air defense systems in Libya.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay stated Wednesday that Turkey’s and Libya’s “red line” is its maritime agreement in eastern Mediterranean waters. Oktay added that “no one can question” the deal, which was established last year to create an exclusive economic zone. Greece recently forged a maritime delimitation agreement with Egypt in a move that promised both nations access to oil reserves and other resources, but also threatens the existing agreement between Turkey and Libya. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias called the Turkish Lybian deal “void and legally unfounded,” a move that has U.S. officials worried about rising tensions between Greece and Turkey.
As Greece and Turkey battle over resources close to The Levant, Russia is ramping up its logistical support for the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, tallying 338 cargo flights from Syria as they wage battles supporting Haftar. Haftar, a former C.I.A. asset, once worked with the U.S. to help depose the dictator Mummar Gaddafi.
A report by the U.N. Security Council Libya sanctions committee, which has not yet been released publically, found that the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar also violated the arms embargo on Libya in support of either faction. Russian President Putin has stated that if there are any Russians operating in Libya, it is without his knowledge or blessing. The UAE has failed to respond to several requests for information regarding its activities in Libya. Turkey has been funneling arms into Libya via passenger jets full of supplies as well as cargo ships. When EU naval ships attempted to intercept a Turkish cargo ship for inspection, it was chased off by Turkish frigates. EU forces received a call from the Turkish Navy claiming “the Turkish [cargo] ship is under the protection of the Turkish republic.”
In the wake of U.N.-backed Libyan pro-government forces claiming the last western stronghold of Haftar, remaining factions have been entrenched with infighting as they for power in a vacuum. Haftar remains in control of the east and south, as well as many of the country’s oil fields. The U.N. mission in Libya stated that the country “is witnessing a dramatic turn of events that underlines the urgent need to return to a full and inclusive political process.” Amid the violence and unrest, Libya is also dealing with a major coronavirus outbreak. Libyan UN representatives labeled it “a decisive turning point” and that the pandemic was “spiraling out of control.”
Libyan Civil War Map 2020
Source: “Libyan Civil War Map 2020“
After ousting a renegade warlord, Libya’s pro-government forces turn on one another – Washington Post – 9/3/2020
The latest turmoil comes less than two weeks after the Tripoli government, known as the Government of National Accord, or GNA, and a rival eastern government declared separate cease-fires. They called for a demilitarized zone in the contested city of Sirte, the resumption of oil production and a path to elections. These goals were all welcomed by the United Nations, regional neighbors and Western powers tired of the conflict in Europe’s backyard.
Russia steps up support for private military contractor in Libya: U.N. report – Reuters – 9/3/2020
It listed some 338 “suspicious flights from Syria by Russian Federation military aircraft” to Libya between Nov. 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020. In a confidential May report, the sanctions monitors said that Russia-based Wagner Group had up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya.
Sanallah: Ongoing conflict in Libya not linked to distribution of oil revenues – The Libya Observer – 9/3/2020
The Chairman of the National Oil Corporation Mustafa Sanallah stressed that the ongoing conflict in Libya has nothing to do with the distribution of oil revenues; saying it is rather a conflict between parties that want to control the wealth of the Libyan people. His remarks came in two separate meetings with the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio and European Union’s High Representative Josep Borrell.
Waves of Russian and Emirati Flights Fuel Libyan War, U.N. Finds – New York Times – 9/3/2020
Four of the cargo planes bound for Libya on Jan. 19 had been sent by the United Arab Emirates, whose leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, smiled as he lunched with Ms. Merkel in a luminous room just before the peace conference. Along with Russia and Egypt, the Emirates is backing the Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter in the war. The fifth plane that day belonged to Russia — one of nearly 350 Russian military supply flights in nine months that have swelled its force of Russian and Syrian mercenaries to over 5,000 fighters, according to the latest American estimates.