Algeria and Tunisia seek to exert a greater stabilising influence in Libya. Unlike Libya’s other neighbour Egypt, who has clearly chosen sides, Algeria and Tunisia have chosen a strategy of neutrality and working to limit foreign interference in the ongoing civil war. Tunisian president Kais Saied, meeting his Algerian counterpart Abdelmjadjid Tebboune, stressed the need for a political solution driven by Libyans themselves, and the need to fend off “foreign interference and weapons flows”. According to Tebboune, "Tunisia and Algeria want to make a solution for Libya with meetings in Tunisia or Algeria, to start a new stage there by building institutions and holding elections".
Both countries have stayed out of Libya until recently due to their own economic and political challenges. Tunisia has struggled to find stability after it overthrew its long-time dictator in 2011. Algeria remained largely sidelined as its long-time leader suffered a stroke in 2013, who only recently forwent reelection due to growing public pressure. It may be that Haftar took advantage of Algeria’s internal challenges to launch assaults on Fezzan and later against Tripoli.
As we have mentioned on this site, Algeria has a long political tradition of prioritising diplomacy and opposing foreign intervention. It recognises the GNA as Libya’s legitimate government, but at the same time recognises Haftar as a legitimate stakeholder. Until now, Algeria attempted to support bottom-up political dialogue in Libya, but this has failed to win the backing of Libyans.
Tebboune has described “Tripoli” as a red line that “no one should cross”, concerned that if Haftar breaks into the city, he will fail to hold it and only cause destruction, leading to instability that will spill over into his country. Algeria recalls a 2013 Al-Qaeda attack on its oil facilities carried out by Libyan extremists. Therefore, already in his first two months in office, Tebboune has made Libya priority. He has already organised the foreign ministers of North Africa to meet regarding Libya, and attained meetings in Berlin with Turkey’s Erdogan and UAE foreign minister Bin Zayed.
Tunisia holds similar views to Algeria, and the two are intricately linked in each other’s security space and thinking. Tunisia is even more at risk from Libyan instability, fearing an influx of refugees. It’s economy is also heavily reliant on tourism, and was hit hard in 2015 when an Al-Qaeda attack killed 60 at a beach-side resort. Thus, Tunisia as well places a heavy emphasis on maintaining stability.
Neither country wants or will allow a large-scale foreign military involvement in Libya. For now, they will push forward using the leverage of Algeria’s large military and their geographic positioning to “double down on diplomacy”.