8 Jan, 2020
Russia and Turkey have called for all parties in the ongoing Libyan conflict to declare a ceasefire, even as both countries seem to support opposite sides in the affray. Earlier, Turkey began moving troops toward Libya.
Following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Wednesday, Moscow and Ankara released a joint statement calling on all sides in the Libyan conflict to “declare a sustainable ceasefire, supported by the necessary measures to be taken for stabilizing the situation on the ground and normalizing daily life in Tripoli and other cities.”
Libya is currently contested by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), the latter backed up by General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Haftar’s forces spent much of 2019 advancing west toward Tripoli, at one point threatening to storm the capital. Turkey intervened on the side of the GNA last week, and began sending ground troops toward the North African nation over the weekend, under the auspices of providing “coordination and stability” for the UN-backed GNA government.
Russia has been careful not to pick sides, despite talks with Haftar in Moscow earlier in the year. The Russian government nonetheless criticized Turkey’s siding with the GNA, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stating late last month that “foreign interference will hardly help the situation.”
Ankara has ruled out the possibility of clashing with Russia in Libya, with Erdogan adviser and Chief EU negotiator, Omer Celik, saying on Monday it was “out of the question.”
Erdogan’s decision to send troops led Haftar to declare “jihad” on Turkey, and the general vowed to throw the “invaders” out of his country. Meanwhile, the Tobruk parliament cut all diplomatic ties with Turkey and accused GNA Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj of treason for inviting Turkish forces in.
Once an oil-rich and prosperous nation, Libya remains fractured and devastated since longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed by rebel forces in 2011, with the backing of a NATO bombing campaign. With Gaddafi removed, the country degenerated into a no-man’s-land blighted by militia clashes, jihadism, and human trafficking.
A Russia-Turkey brokered ceasefire in Libya would be “very difficult” to make happen because while the main conflict is between two players — Haftar’s forces and the UN-backed Sarraj government — it’s “more complicated” than that since there are additional forces at play, including ISIS and other warlords, political analyst Chris Bambery told RT.
Bambery said that the UN-backed government is only “hanging on in a coastal strip of the country” and has “very little control” over Libya. Therefore it would be unlikely to see Haftar’s side backing off just when it appears to be nearing victory, he said.
Still, Russia and Turkey do hold “some sway” in Libya and both seem keen to pull the ceasefire off, he added. The situation may also be complicated by the fact that other international players are also involved, including Haftar-backers Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which Bambery said may not be interested in paying attention to a deal brokered between Moscow and Ankara.