In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations Dr Hossein Ebrahim-nia commenting on Khalifa Haftar’s condition that Turkish troops should withdraw from Libya before he agrees to ceasefire, noted: In analyzing the conditions of government participation, sharing of power and Turkish troop pullout it must be taken into account that the current situation in Libya was the result of the collapse of the rigid sovereign structure of Gaddafi era in a purely tribal and ethnic state, a structure that was not really a state and a nation. This created the ground for the growth and proliferation of militant groups all of want to have a share in power.
Lack of Mechanisms of Real Gov’t & Nation for Political Participation
“While there is no mechanism for a real government and nation for political participation of different groups, this demand of share has provided a platform for the proliferation of paramilitary groups with varying levels of ability and power in Libya as currently, an estimated number of 1,700 paramilitary groups are active in Libya with large military hardware provided by their regional and trans-regional supporters. These groups, which often seek the seizure of power in the unstable alliances and coalitions will certainly not reach anywhere by taking arms and will never accomplish peace and participation in government.
The North African affairs expert argued that General Haftar’s condition is not in compliance with peace and consonance but rather in line with a condition that he knows the other party will not accept. The Libyan parliament formally announced on 24 February that it will not engage in political negotiations with Haftar.
“In this state of political turmoil, the groups involved continue to prioritize the military option, not the political option. This has created a never-ending civil war that virtually split Libya between the Libyan National Unity Government (endorsed by the international community), and the Libyan National Army, led by General Haftar, as well as tribal and ethnic groups that are sometimes on this side and sometimes on the other side, and ultimately splinter extremist Islamist groups who maintain presence in parts of the country.
Ball in National Unity Gov’t Court
Referring to the role Turkey plays in Libya, the professor said: “In this context, it is quite clear that Turkey would not abandon support for economic investments and a Brotherhood-led government in North Africa. On the other hand, Haftar knows the National Unity Government would not accept his forces as part of power and government. Therefore, Haftar has laid down the condition to send the ball in National Unity Government’s court and put creating international pressure by pretending that his group actually wants peace and the other side was not willing to accept.
He added: “This issue, with the official announcement of the National Unity Government that it will not participate in political negotiations in Geneva, will strengthen the position of the Libyan National Army among the countries seeking to negotiate and increase the pressure on the Faiz Seraj government and its regional and trans-regional supporters.
No Sign of a Ceasefire
Noting that according to UN announcements, the ceasefire in Libya has been violated more than 150 times, he stressed: “The current situation in Libya does not show any sign of peace and ceasefire soon, and this situation denotes more and more violations of the ceasefire.
He added: If factors such as the patriarchal system of Gaddafi regime that has contributed to lack of growth of the civil society in the country continue the true manifestation of which is seen in General Haftar and even in some executives of the National Unity Government, as well as tribal and ethnic culture in the country which has a situation far worse than that of the Persian Gulf states and also extremism and its associated issues are not resolved, there can be no hope for stability in Libya.
Ebrahim-nia cited conflict and intolerance among the political elites as another factor of instability in Libya, adding: In fact, the political elites in Libya, rather than thinking about the mainstream along a stable path, seek secondary and deviational roads that have created social frustration. The lack of a political elite mobilizer in Libya also contributes to the persistence of instability in the country.
The university professor also blamed the destructive and controversial interference of foreign agents as another factor of the fragility of any agreement and ceasefire in Libya. “In fact, foreign agents do not interfere uniformly and are completely opposed to the interests of their interference; for example, the interference of Turkey and the Persian Gulf states is quite instrumental; neighbouring countries seek to safeguard their security; European neighbours have an economic and social perspective, meaning that with the debate on immigrants their only priority is the intervention of migrant control because of socio-economic consequences; Therefore, no united voice is coming out from regional states.
He said that in Libya, there was a divide between the political spectrum and one of the reasons for the defeat of Islamists and secular forces was the lack of a unified flow, and that the issue of energy and oil was also one of the major obstacles to the agreement among political groups in the country. As long as these obstacles are not removed, there is little hope for stability and peace, and the financial and human capital of the country will continue to be destroyed. Moreover, a possible ceasefire will be fragile and peace will be in danger.
The North African developments analyst also explained the possibility of negotiations between the parties involved in Libya if Turkey leaves the country: at least as long as the current administration (Justice and Development) is in power in Turkey there will never be any change or flexibility on its part. It is because Turkey’s foreign policy is based on a combination of Ataturk nationalism, nostalgic Ottomanism, an empire-oriented attitude, and ultimately Islam with a Brotherhood attitude.
He added that Turkey’s economic investments in Libya should also be taken into account, as we have seen in the area of industrial and construction services contracting, and some estimates put the investments worth $30 billion. The second point is the geopolitical issue of the south and the east Mediterranean that is of vital importance to Turkey; therefore, Ankara has signed a maritime agreement called “delimitation of maritime jurisdictions” with the Seraj’s National Unity Government alongside a military and security cooperation agreement.
Ebrahim-nia said through the two agreements, Turkey is trying to bring under control its Mediterranean maritime regions, including the territorial waters, the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf region that is strategically important for its energy; in other words, Erdogan is pursuing a strategy to hold the upper hand in bargaining on competition in the energy sector in the south and east of the Mediterranean, thereby securing the interests of Turkish companies in the Libyan continental shelf for years to come.
He emphasized: Turkey’s presence in Libya follows goals beyond the current support because by influencing this sphere it has boosted its status. On the other hand, by implementing a military cooperation agreement, it has voiced its resolve to protect the Brotherhood-oriented government in Tripoli which is endorsed by the international community against the regional and trans-regional coalition of General Haftar.