The Turkish Anadolu News Agency reports that the chairman of the Turkey-Libya Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK) says that Turkish investors should harness Libya’s $120 billion investment volume, especially in the construction sector.
Murtaza Karanfil, the chairman, said “there is a call from Libya in this direction” noting lucrative reconstruction and trade opportunities would soon present themselves. “During the reconstruction process, houses, public buildings, and roads will be rebuilt”.
At present, $19 billion worth of Turkish contracts in Libya remain unfinished, according to Karanfil, and Turkish contractors lost $4 billion in receivables due to losses – including of machinery and equipment. However, Karanfil expects progress to be made soon in resuming ties and contracts. Prior to Ghaddafi’s overthrow, Turkish exports to Libya were set to exceed $2 billion. They reached $1.9 billion in 2019 with an increase of 29% from the previous year.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK based group, reports at least 117 Syrian mercenaries have been killed in Libya so far. The group estimates 4750 Syrian fighters in Libya, operating on behalf of the GNA (and Turkey), with another 1900 preparing to be deployed in Turkey. According to the group, 150 fighters escaped Libya for Europe. Turkey continues to recruit from the Afrin region of Syria.
The Egyptian navy has begun to train and build a naval commando force to serve under Haftar’s LNA forces. The commandos are intended to raid Turkish ships carrying arms for the rival GNA in Tripoli, according to both Egyptian and Libyan sources. The new force is trained by Egyptian naval officers, with ships being supplied by the UAE, two of the main backers of Haftar’s LNA.
50 fighters have been trained so far with 50 more receiving training in Egypt.
An in-depth investigation conducted by Public Eye and TRIAL International in Switzerland, Malta and Italy revealed that Kolmar Group AG, a Swiss fuel trading company, was involved in an illegal smuggling scheme concerning Libyan oil in 2014 and 2015. The investigation uncovered over 20 shipments of marine gas-oil during that time period involving “questionable individuals”, including Libyan drug traffickers and Maltese and Italian nationals. The individuals have been in trial in Sicily since 2018 with a verdict due later this year.
According to UN sanctions on Libya, it is illegal and can be considered a war crime, as a well as against Swiss law, if any company knowingly purchases or assists in exporting stolen commodities from a country at war. The report also criticises the banks involved for not conducting thorough due-diligence practices.
A delegation representing Haftar’s Tobruk-based government flew to Damascus last week, where they met with government officials and with Syrian president Assad. The delegates concluded the meeting by signing an MOU comprising agreements on 46 areas of cooperation and coordination, including the reopening of the Libyan embassy in Damascus. The sides also agreed to coordinate on common challenges like terrorism, maintaining their sovereignty and independence in the face of foreign interference, and especially the challenge posed by “Turkish aggression”.
The Tobruk delegation invited Damascus to open a consulate in Benghazi. The UN-recognised Tripoli government expressed its opposition to the illegal handover of the Damascus embassy to the eastern Tobruk government.
Syria joins much of the Arab world in recognising Haftar and the Tobruk government over the Tripoli-based GNA, who is aligned primarily with Turkey and Qatar. Turkey acting as a main backer for the Syrian opposition militias plays a key role in this development.
Russian Deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov accused Turkey of helping foreign fighters cross into Libya. Speaking to reporters, Bogdanov added that Russia does not see any evidence that the rival parties were ready to implement any of the military or political decisions that came out of the Berlin conference, and that there is no support for the “basic principles” need to resolve the crisis. However, he pointed out that despite this, the Russian-Turkish brokered truce has largely been observed.
LNA forces loyal to Haftar claim they killed 16 Turkish soldiers in recent weeks of fighting. This is, according to Reuters News Agency, only a day after Turkey "acknowledged it had lost several 'martyrs' in the ongoing Libyan conflict.
A spokesman for Haftar's LNA said that the Turkish troops were killed in the GNA stronghold of Misrata, as well as in the fighting in Tripoli and in al-Falah, to the south.
For the first time, Turkish president Erdogan acknowledged Turkey's military role and that it sent Syrian militias to Libya: "we are there with our soldiers and our teams from the Syrian National Army. We continue the struggle there. We have several martyrs. In return, however, we neutralised nearly a hundred (of Haftar's) legionaries."
In addition to the 16 Turkish soldiers reportedly killed, Sky News Arabia TV reports another 100 Syrian mercenaries killed so far in Tripoli.
Turkish president Erdogan is accusing Russia of managing its interference in Libya “at the highest level”. Erdogan has long accused Russia of intervening in the Libyan conflict in support of Haftar and the LNA, through its operation of Wagner, a private military contractor. Erdogan supports the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli. The Kremlin has long denied it maintains a military presence in Libya, and that it has a connection to Wagner.
Speaking to a group of journalists, Erdogan reportedly showed a picture of Wagner’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin together with Russia’s defence minister and military chief. Erdogan said “they’re now directing Wagner there”, referring to Moscow, and yet “they still get up and say that they don’t have a relationship with it.” It was not clear to the Moscow Times, reporting on this story, to which picture Erdogan was referring, although there is a known photograph of Prigozhin with the defence chiefs and Haftar from 2018.
african union 55 members pledge to increase role in libya - back un process; offer to partake in peacekeeping role
The African Union is seeking a larger role in Libya. Wrapping up a 2 day summit in Addis Ababa, the 55 member states of the African Union pledged to push for peace in Libya and signified they seek a larger role. AU Peace and Security Council Chief, Smail Chergui, offered assistance to revive the UN-led peace process.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the new AU chairman, said that Libya (along with South Sudan) is one of two conflicts on the continent he wants to focus on ending during his tenure.
The AU has complained about being overlooked in international efforts to stabilise Libya. Chergui said AU could support peace if sides agreed to cease hostilities, offering to be part of any observer mission.
We recently reported on this site of the AU, and specifically Algeria and Tunisia, seeking to take on a greater role in the Libyan crisis. Aside from Egypt, and to a lesser extent Sudan and Chad, which send mercenaries to fight for Haftar and the LNA, the AU's memberships has remained largely neutral and sidelined, until recently, from the conflict.
The New York Times and Associated Press are reporting on Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other Islamist elements among the nearly 5000 Syrian fighters sent to fight in Libya by Turkey. We reported this story just days ago as it was picked up by Libyan media, citing both LNA and a Syrian human rights monitoring group as sources. The GNA denied such claims, while Turkey has yet to confirm or deny reports that it is using Syrian mercenaries at all. Erdogan, so far, has been vague on this issue, referring to a “different team” that is not “from within our soldiers” as a “combat force”.
Turkey, through its military intelligence, has trained and funded Syrian fighters, bringing together various opposition groups to Assad under the Syrian National Army. It is from these that Turkey has enticed fighters to ship out to Libya to fight on behalf of the GNA. The fighters reportedly receive $2000 a month and the promise of Turkish citizenship, while their families are financially compensated if they die in Libya. Most are said to be ideologically apathetic and are signing on for the economic gains. We previously reported on this site that Turkish intelligence has taken motivating the Syrians by promising they will face Russians when in Libya.
Reports have ranged from 2000 to as many as 5000 Syrians currently in Libya, with dozens of them reported to be former Al-Qaeda and ISIS fighters. Turkey has a long history of aiding Islamist elements, including by relaxing border restrictions to allow their movement into Syria.
Some GNA commanders were concerned that the presence of such extremists would “tarnish” the GNA’s image, and causing it to lose support in the west and among Libyans.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has determined recently at least 130 such Islamist elements among the thousands of Syrians in Libya.