Algeria seeks a larger role in Libya’s peace process, but must jockey with other countries first. Algeria, Libya’s larger neighbour to the west, is seeking to re-establish its historic role as a leading and destabilising force in the region. Its new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected in December, has already made concerted efforts at bringing together the warring sides, and halt the increased presence of foreign proxies on its own border.
Algeria, with its long history of being a French colony and its bloody struggle for independence, maintains a “dogged fixation on the primacy of sovereignty and the dangers of foreign intervention”, according to Simon Speakman Cordall in Al-Monitor. He writes that Algeria has always shown a strong commitment to preventing foreign interference in the region, especially since such efforts tend to go badly, and have negative repercussions for its own domestic security.
This will be a tough order, as Turkey, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Russia and France are all currently involved militarily in the conflict. Despite this, Cordall says Algeria has made some progress, such as in Berlin when it managed to get the foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad, Mali and Niger together, and has recently suggested to the African Union it could host a national reconciliation forum.
As we reported just a few days ago on this site, Algeria has also suggested to the African Union to send troops to monitor and enforce a ceasefire. Algeria will however, have to navigate its regional rivalries, such as with Morocco, and Egypt, which backs the LNA.
Cordall points out that Algeria has a long and proud tradition of producing successful diplomats. That, combined with its neutrality in Libya (along with Morocco and Tunisia) can place in into a good position to increase its role and help bring some much needed stability to the region.
As reports of Turkish and UAE arms arriving in Libya continue to come in, Intelligence Online is reporting that Haftar’s LNA recently received a shipment of 6 Chinese Ch-4 drones from Jordan, a part of a number of contracts signed between the Kingdom and the LNA in recent weeks. In December, the UN reported that Jordan provided Haftar with armoured vehicles.
These are just the latest examples of foreign powers continuing to fuel the conflict in Libya.
Syrian militias told they will fight russians for motivation; gna denies claims of jihadist elements among syrian fighters
According to sources in the Syrian National Army, the opposition Syrian fighters backed by Turkey, Turkish intelligence, responsible for organising and training Syrian militias fighting in Libya, is telling Syrian militias they will fight Russians once in Libya, in order to boost motivation.
“There are Russians here….The Turks confirmed this to us, I wouldn’t even hurt a Libyan here. But if I find a Russian, I will put a stick up his ass,” said one Syrian fighter. The Syrians on the ground in Libya said they had not seen much action as of yet, and are awaiting Turkish forces and equipment. The SNA source went on to say, “of course, there are no Russian soldiers there.” Turkish intelligence is using the possibility of Russian fighters to motivate the Syrians, who have suffered under Russian bombardments in Syria. The SNA source continued, “but of course this is a lie, and Libya is not Syria. But these mercenaries believe whatever Turkey tells them”.
Turkey claims it sends Syrians, only Turkish military personnel in non-combatant roles to train GNA troops. International media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report of over 4700 Syrian mercenaries from the SNA who have been sent Tripoli so far. On the other side, the LNA is backed by a number of international backers, and includes Russian and Sudanese mercenaries.
Related to this, the GNA denies reports in the international media that there are Islamist extremist elements within the Syrians coming to fight on their behalf, according to Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency. Media sources claim that among the over 4000 fighters, dozens have links to Jihadist groups.
The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, said that the rival sides in the conflict have shown "genuine willingness" to strengthen the current truce into a more stable and long-lasting one. This seems to be a marked shift in tone from just a few days ago.
Salame, at the start of the UN-hosted ceasefire 5+5 talks in Geneva, said the "sides expressed their approval of the need to transform the truce into a permanent cease-fire agreement". Just a week ago, Bloomberg Africa points out, Salame remarked to the UN Security Council that the cease-fire was in "name only".
The current talks in Geneva are the latest in a series of international efforts to reach a power-sharing agreement and bring an end to 9 years of fighting. As agreed upon in Berlin, each side is represented by 5 senior military figures. Salame told reporters that the two sides were able to reach a resolution on some issues that affect oil production, especially the El-Sharara field, which has been under an LNA blockade and threatens Libya's economic stability.
Diplomatic sources in Algeria revealed that Algiers is pressuring the African Union to send forces to Libya to help enforce a ceasefire. The aim of this is reportedly to limit Turkish influence, which has increased as of late, in the neighbouring country. High level meetings, pushed by Algerian Prime Minister Djerad and Foreign Minister Boukadoum, were held in Republic of Congo recently to discuss this issue.
The African Union members are said to largely agree to this suggestion. The next step, according to the sources, would be to present the proposal to the two sides. However, Haftar does not have a close relationship with Algeria, whom he sees as “biased” in favour of the GNA, and may reject this.
Algeria is said to be seeking a way to increase its influence in Libya, with a goal to limit foreign interference. The AU force would work under UN auspices. Algeria has also offered to host reconciliation talks to end the ongoing conflict.
According to the pro-GNA Daily Sabah, LNA chief Khalifa Haftar announced over the weekend he will attend the Geneva meetings. This is, despite refusing to cooperate with the cease-fire previously.
One of the main outcomes of the Berlin conference (January 19) was a push by the UN and international powers that the GNA and LNA each nominate 5 representatives to participate in a “Joint Military Commission” to work out the details for a cease fire.
However, since Berlin, Haftar’s forces have reportedly intensified their offensive on Tripoli and Misrata, putting the continuation of the cease fire in doubt.
Over 70 Syrian militants sent by Turkey are reported dead so far in Libya. According to LNA sources, the militants were killed fighting for the GNA near Tripoli.
French president Emmanuel Macron has come out against Turkish president Erdogan over breaking his promise made in Berlin to refrain from interfering in the Libyan conflict. Macron referenced Turkish naval vessels spotted off the Tripoli shore, as Syrian mercenaries continue to flow to Libya to back the GNA. Macron described Turkey's moves as "detrimental to the security of all Europeans and Sahelians".
Alongside its historic colonial role in North Africa, France has long been active in the Sahel region, which borders on southern Libya, in fighting militant Islamist groups. France maintains around 4500 special forces active in the area.
World leaders committed to cease their foreign intervention last week in Berlin, including France and Turkey. While Turkey directly and openly backs the GNA, France is seen to more indirectly back Haftar and the LNA. In doing so, it has been at the forefront of the split and inconsistency that characterises the EU's policy on Libya, with Italy being seen as the most invested country backing the GNA.
An editorial in the London-based Financial Times calls for the international community to end its hypocrisy in Libya. The editors note that the Berlin conference, which took place a week ago, provided for a “moment of cautious optimism”. However, much like after previous attempts to forge peace between the sides, fighting escalated almost instantly exposing the hypocrisy of those foreign powers who continue to interfere in the conflict.
A recent UN statement called out several of those who participated for continuing to provide arms, although it did not refer to any country in particular. The UAE and Egypt continue to break the embargo in favour of Haftar, while Turkey breaks the embargo in favour of Sarraj, including its latest move of deploying advisory troops and Syrian militias.
The Berlin meeting, the paper claims, was “hastily arranged” to prevent further escalation. Turkey’s increased role and US and European concerns about Russia’s entranced pushed these to come back to the Libya table. However, as Haftar’s forces continue fighting and block Libya’s oil infrastructure, there is “barely a murmur” from the international community, including from those who attended the conference.
The authors note that Haftar can be stubborn and ruthless, and continues to believe a military solution is preferable to diplomacy. However he is heavily dependent on his foreign backers, who increasingly seem to be involved for their own gains and to ensure significant influence for the day after. This is not good for the Libyan people. Europe and the US must take responsibility for their role in Libya’s ongoing conflict and immediately work to cease providing arms or fighters fuelling the war.
The French Le Monde is reporting that Saudi Arabia is behind the financing of Russian Wagner private military contractors said to be operating in Libya on behalf of Haftar’s LNA.
The Le Monde report reveals between 300 and 2000 Russian mercenaries involved in the offensive on Tripoli since Sep 2019 – confirming around 30 have been killed.
Le Monde says Haftar had been courting Moscow for some years to obtain its help, offering lucrative energy and infrastructure projects in exchange. Russia began helping Haftar in 2017, and in late 2019, reportedly stepped up its efforts by deploying Wagner mercenaries.
Russia denies the mercenaries are operating on behest of Moscow.
Similarly, Turkish president Erdogan claims that the Russian mercenaries in Libya are funded by the UAE. In a rare direct attack on Abu Dhabi, who backs Haftar, Erdogan accused the UAE of footing the bill for the roughly 1500 Russian Wagner fighters currently believed to be in Libya. The mercenaries began arriving after Haftar’s renewed push for Tripoli.
Turkey seems content with providing some military support to the GNA. For his role, Putin does not deny that Russian security contractors may be working in Florida, however he insists that they are in any ways connected to the Israeli government.