Uncertainty still reigns over the outcome of the talks between belligerent Libyans which are held in Geneva, under the aegis of the UN, and the truce in force since January 12 remains precarious. Several rockets hit Thursday the only functional airport in Tripoli. The two rival blocs are struggling to start a dialogue.
As the UN tries to save the enter Libyan talks in Geneva, which aim in particular to end the divisions in a country plunged in chaos since the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, in 2011, the situation remains tense between the two fighting blocks power in Libya.
Despite the efforts of the United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame, the government of national understanding (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj and recognized by the international community, and Marshal Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (ANL ), supported by the elected Parliament based in Tobruk, struggle to trust each other.
New rocket hits capital city airport
On the ground, despite UN Security Council resolution demanding “a lasting cease-fire”, and a truce concluded on January 12, which is regularly violated, the standoff continues. Thursday, February 27, the GNA accused “Haftar militias” of having targeted in the morning the international airport of Mitiga, the only function of the Libyan capital, suspected by the ANL of having been transformed into a military base by Turkey.
The rocket attacks, which were not claimed, resulted in a brief suspension of flights by the airport authorities. The UN mission in Libya (Manul) condemned repeated attacks over the past two days against the Mitiga airport.
Last week, the GNA accused the marshal’s forces of bombing the seaport of Tripoli and that of Al-Shaab, a secondary port. The government of Fayez al-Sarraj then qualified the “violations committed before and during the truce” as “documented war crimes”, requiring “international arrest warrants”.
While the two sides accuse themselves of having internationalized the conflict, more than 1,000 people have been killed since the start of the offensive launched in April by Marshal Haftar to take Tripoli. For its part, the UN has repeatedly denounced the violations of the arms embargo and the interference of several international actors.
As in Syria, Turkey and Russia support rival camps in Libya. On the one hand, Ankara actively and publicly supports the government of Tripoli, with which the Turks signed military, security and maritime cooperation agreements in November 2019, and on the other, Moscow is accused of secretly supporting Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Turkey, which has deployed forces in support of the GNA in recent weeks, confirmed on Tuesday the deaths of two Turkish soldiers in Libya, without specifying the circumstances in which these soldiers lost their lives.
A few days earlier, on February 21, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had confirmed for the first time that members of the pro-Ankara Syrian National Army (ANS) were supporting the GNA on the ground. And this, while pointing the finger at Russian support for the rival camp. “There are elements of the Syrian National Army (ANS) there. They (Haftar camp and his supporters) want them to leave. However, the Russian security company Wagner has 2,500 men (in Libya), why don’t we talk about it? “said Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the press in Istanbul.
Moscow is in particular suspected of having supported the transfer to Libya, for the benefit of Marshal Haftar, of thousands of mercenaries of the private group Wagner, which, according to Washington, would be linked to the Kremlin. Russia has denied any role in the presence of these mercenaries.
Accused of seeking to torpedo the political process of the GNA, Marshal Haftar plays for his part the nationalist card by threatening the “Turkish-Ottoman invaders”. “If the negotiations in Geneva do not lead to peace and security in our country, that the mercenaries do not leave where they come from, then the armed forces (the ANL) will fulfill their constitutional duty (…) defense against the Turkish-Ottoman invaders “, he launched on Friday, raising fears of a new escalation of violence.
Confusion in Geneva
Especially since at the beginning of the week, the announcement by the two camps of the suspension of their participation in the negotiations which were supposed to start on February 26, plunged the process of dialogue, started in 2017 and interrupted several times, in uncertainty.
While the UN indicated that political discussions had started on Wednesday, Abdulhadi Lahweej, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the parallel government, declared to the media that the participation of his camp was “for the moment suspended”.
In the evening, during a closed meeting of the UN Security Council, Ghassan Salame, who spoke from Geneva, assured that the political talks “had started” with those who were present, according to diplomats. Namely the representatives of the GNA based in Tripoli and the representatives are chosen by the UN.