Turkey and Russia are moving counter the international efforts led by the United States to impose a new political settlement in Libya, which brings the spectre of war to the fore again about a month and a half after the rival parties in the conflict announced a ceasefire following a year and a half of war on the outskirts of Tripoli.
Since the ceasefire was announced, Turkey has not stopped supplying weapons to the militias allied to the Islamist-dominated Government of National Accord (GNA), according to Itamilradar, a website specialising in monitoring military aircraft movements.
The site stated yesterday, Thursday, that “despite the commitment in the Caucasus and the tensions with Greece, the Turkish involvement in Libya does not diminish and the air bridge between Turkey and Libya continues.”
“A few minutes ago a pair of Turkish Air Force Airbus A-400Ms (15-0051 & 16-0055) left Misrata to return to Turkey after traveling the opposite route last night,” the site added.
Such moves, coupled with previous statements by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirming Ankara’s withdrawal of a number of Syrian mercenaries from Libya. show that Ankara has no intention to calm things down in Libya.
Turkey is covering up its political-process-threatening moves by claiming that they come within the framework of training, assistance and consultations in the military and security fields.
On Thursday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar discussed with his Libyan counterpart Salah al-Din al-Nimroush the latest developments in Libya.
A statement issued by the Turkish Defence Ministry stated that the meeting took place at the ministry’s headquarters in the capital, Ankara.
Akar stressed during the meeting that Turkey will continue its support to its Libyan brothers in the fields of training, assistance and military and security consultations.
Despite the launching of a series of inter-Libyan talks in a number of Arab and Western capitals, the parties to the conflict on the ground have not stopped brandishing the threat of war.
The air force of the Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, announced, on Sunday, that it had completed the maintenance work on the MiG-23BN bombers squadron.
On Sunday, the spokesman for the armed forces, Major General Ahmed al-Mismari, confirmed, through his Facebook page, that the army’s MiG-23BN bombers are ready to carry out combat missions, which raised questions about whether these aircraft were the same that AFRICOM (US Africa Command) had claimed were deployed by Russia in al-Jufra Base in central Libya.
Last week, the Government of National Accord announced that Salah al-Din al-Nimroush, accompanied by Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Muhammad al-Haddad, and the heads of the general staff, visited the Sirte-Al-Jufra operations room and the battle fronts.
In a statement published by the page of the so-called Operation Volcano of Anger, the GNA forces carried out military training exercises for artillery and tanks with live ammunition east of Misrata on Wednesday morning, which carried messages threatening to violate the ceasefire.
These developments reinforce the accusations levelled by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian against Russia and Turkey, accusing them of obstructing the political process in Libya.
According to press statements made by Le Drian to the French newspaper Le Parisien, restoring peace to Libya can be summed up in three steps, including “converting the current truce into a ceasefire, resuming the oil economic activity and starting a political process that leads to elections.” He added, however, that “the process is being hampered by the intervention of foreign powers (Turkey and Russia), which support one side or the other by bringing in Syrian fighters.”
Le Drian called for the necessity of breaking the process of the “Syrianisation of the Libyan conflict” “through dialogue with all the Libyan actors directly involved in the conflict.”
He considered the European position on Libya “coherent”. “We agree with the Germans and the Italians on the need for everyone, including (Khalifa) Haftar, to realise that there will be no military solution,” Le Drian explained, which supports reports about the European Union overcoming its differences on Libya.
Le Drian’s statements reflected the existence of a US-European understanding to end the Russian and Turkish presence in Libya through the political track.
The United States rejects any Russian role in Libya and ignored Moscow’s calls for dialogue, while France rejects any Turkish presence in Libya and the Mediterranean.
The increased Russian and Turkish interventions in Libya since the end of last year have raised fears of the “Syrianisation” of the Libyan conflict.
The United States accuses Russia of deploying mercenaries belonging to the Wagner Group in the Libyan oil fields and ports, while western Libyahas become under Turkey’s control, amid European attempts to reduce that control, a trend that Washington appears to support.
Turkey is trying to pressure the President of the Presidency Council, Fayez al-Sarraj, to complete the process of signing a number of projects, foremost of which is the establishment of Turkish naval bases in the ports of Misrata, Tripoli and Khums, and this before the election of a new government.
European countries, led by France, are predictably trying to hinder these projects, according to previous statements by Libyan sources to The Arab Weekly.