Libya plagued by malevolent outside parties

Cairo Declaration may not go down well with Turkish designs on Tripoli

Since Western powers leapt into the fray to remove the long-standing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the oil-rich country, once the wealthiest in Africa, has been embroiled in conflicts.

Today over a third of the population live in poverty. The days when no one went hungry or was homeless and everyone lived in peace and security are long gone.

Democracy, promised by the armed interlopers France, Britain and the United States, failed to manifest echoing their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, still struggling to recover. Yet those who broke Libya have shied away from fixing it.

Not only have they made little effort towards the holding of a countrywide democratic ballot in recent months, they have stood back allowing fellow Nato member country Turkey to launch an armed conflict against the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar on behalf of the unelected GNA.

Moreover they have done nothing to prevent Ankara from infesting the country with Syrian mercenaries and terrorists fighting under the Turkish flag.

There are credible reports from multiple sources that Syrian children and teenagers from poor families have been recruited to join the pro-GNA militias, which if proven, is a war crime that is seemingly going unnoticed by the United Nations that persists in recognising the GNA as the legitimate ruling entity.

Once again, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who remains hand-in-glove with the pro-Islamist Qataris, is flexing his muscle within Arab states, in some cases with the assent of governments, under the pretext of being a defender.

In recent years, Turkey has implemented an expansionist agenda establishing a military presence in Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Syria and most recently Libya.

Lucrative quid-pro-quo

With regards to Libya, Erdogan has negotiated a potentially lucrative quid-pro-quo in exchange for his beating back of Haftar’s troops that just a few short months ago had taken control over a large swathe of the capital and surrounding areas. The Turkish entree, especially its air power, has altered the equation … for a price.

Without going into detail the GNA has handed Turkey the right to drill for oil and gas within its waters under a maritime delimitation deal signed last year which established an illegal economic maritime zone from Turkey’s southern coastline to the northeastern coast of Libya.

This devilish pact has put Turkey in direct confrontation with the governments of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus which consider the deal “void” because it “infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states and does not comply with the law of the sea”.

Erdogan has pledged to begin oil and gas exploration shortly and if he is permitted to use warships to patrol the area under the false legitimisation provided by the GNA, this would not only encroach upon established oilfields but would also gravely hamper the trio’s plans to export gas to European states.

The EU is critical of the deal but lacks the courage of its convictions, primarily because of Turkey’s status within Nato, its threats to open the floodgates to millions of refugees eager to get to Europe and Erdogan’s buddy-buddy relationship with the incumbent of the White House.

If the UN operated on principle it could scupper this GNA-Turkish plot by withdrawing legitimacy from the Muslim Brotherhood-supporting Fayez Al Sarraj government.

Egypt’s role

The nation that is at most at risk from Erdogan’s de facto ‘occupation’ of Libya is Egypt whose border with its neighbour is long and porous.

Turkish-Egyptian relations are at an all-time low and Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi has repeatedly stated he will never tolerate terrorist organisation or parties backing them to threaten the stability and security of neighbouring countries from Libyan soil.

The question remains whether Egypt will ultimately be cornered into using its not unsubstantial military prowess to flush the foreign militias out?

In the meantime, President Al Sissi seeks a peaceful conclusion. Following talks with Khalifa Haftar and the speaker of the elected Libyan parliament Aguila Saleh on Saturday, he outlined a plan — the Cairo Declaration — that begins with an immediate ceasefire to allow for negotiations aimed at free and fair elections, the disarming of all militias and the cleansing of the country from foreign mercenaries and terrorists.

Crucially, both Haftar and Saleh are on board the initiative which has been welcomed by the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan.

If it succeeds, it will deliver life-changing benefits to the Libyan people in terms of national unity, security, living standards as well as encouraging foreign investment.

So far, the Cairo Declaration has been the recipient of praise but there is one silent voice which doubtless will not stay quiet for long.

No peace deal could incorporate President Erdogan’s domination of Libyan Mediterranean waters or permanent Turkish bases on Libyan soil.

Peace is not in his interest and especially one brokered by a man he considers as his arch-enemy for taking down Egypt’s failed Muslim Brotherhood government.

Will he be a spoiler and if so, is there anyone with the courage and moral fibre to stand in his way?

Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at heardonthegrapevines@yahoo.co.uk.

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