Algeria has recently taken a renewed interest in Libya, and adopted a far more assertive policy. Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum recently travelled to eastern Libya to meet Haftar. This led to a spike of interest and anger in Tripoli as it offered a measure of legitimacy to the parallel Tobruk government. So what is Algeria’s interest in Libya? And has it changed recently?
Neighbouring Algeria has long worked to establish stability in Libya, working since 2014 on the tribal level to create trust and dialogue between groups. However, a series of domestic upheavals and increased international intervention in Libya took Algeria out of the picture for a time.
In December 2019, Algeria elected a new president who set involvement in Libya as a diplomatic priority. Tebboune’s first international trip was to Berlin to attend the Libya peace conference, and he soon met with Turkish president Erdogan to discuss the matter. So far, Algeria has maintained relations with both sides and continues to position itself as a broker in North Africa.
This position Tebboune is seeking to carve for himself is bound up with domestic challenges to his power. Thus, aside from genuinely seeking to maintain stability in the neighbourhood, Tebboune might use the ongoing crisis next door to distract from demonstrations against the government’s legitimacy while improving his regional stature. The formula is well known – “this is not the time for a new government” and “look how well we are doing”.
Algeria having a key role in Libya is by all means important, and if it aides Tebboune and the current Algiers regime in maintaining stability, then everyone comes out a winner. However, Algeria must be sure not to partake in any risky behaviour to maintain its position as a stabiliser and independent mediator in Libya.