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The struggle for oil: Haftar is preparing to fight off the GNA and Turkey

This post was published in Gazeta.ru. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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MOSCOW, (BM) – The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, is preparing for a big battle with the forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey supporting it for the strategically important city of Sirte and the municipality of Al Joufra, said LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari. According to him, a collision may occur in the near future.

He drew attention to the fact that large movements of GNA formations under the leadership of Faiz Sarraj and Turkish forces are now observed in these areas. As al-Mismari noted, the army expects the start of fighting at any time. He assured that the LNA itself will not attack, but will restrain any forces that try to go on the assault.

Shortly before this, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the TRT television channel delivered an ultimatum to LNA: its units must withdraw from Sirte and Jufra, otherwise a military operation will be launched against them.

“We passed it on to the Russian side. Military preparations are underway for an operation in Sirte, although we are still waiting for a settlement at the negotiating table. But if he does not move away, then this determination will be shown,” Cavusoglu said. According to him, Ankara considers this the only possible political solution to the Libyan crisis.

The head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry pointed out that a truce is currently being supported, which “does not work for the interests of the Libyan government.” Cavusoglu expressed the opinion that Haftar is insincere and is trying to buy time to prepare for the attack again.

He made a similar statement shortly before in another interview. The minister called the withdrawal of the armed formations of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar from the strategically important areas of Libya one of the conditions for ending the war in the country, Anadolu agency quoted him as saying.

He recalled that during the negotiations in Istanbul, Moscow proposed a date for a ceasefire in Libya. The GNA, in turn, made a condition: the liberation of the cities of Sirte and Jufra. Cavusoglu warned that otherwise the offensive operations of the metropolitan government would continue.

According to experts, the territories in question are of great political and economic importance.

“Jufra and Sirte are important points through which you can approach oil fields. These deposits are not located in Tripolitania, but in Cyrenaica, that is, in the eastern part of Libya. In order to continue to operate, the PNS needs money, and accordingly, oil needs to be sold,” the former ambassador to Yemen, Libya and Tunisia, director of the Center for Partnership of Civilizations of MGIMO, Veniamin Popov, told Gazeta.ru.

A similar opinion is shared by Farhad Ibrahimov, a researcher at the State University of Management, an expert at Valdai Club, who said that control of the coastal city of Sirte is important for the future of all of Libya.

“If Haftar continues to control this region and gain a foothold there, then the LNA will have the opportunity to again engage in active hostilities against the PNS forces led by Faraj,” the expert told Gazeta.ru.

At the same time, Alexey Malashenko, an expert at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, believes that no one is able to establish full control over Sirte, a city located exactly between Benghazi and Tripoli. In his opinion, even if someone captures him, this is not for long.

“In general, talk of the capture of Sirte is evidence that Libya is falling apart. Whoever captures it will not lead to the unity of Libya, it will lead to the continuation of the civil war. That is, a completely hopeless situation develops. It’s not at all clear whether Libya will be or not,” an expert told Gazeta.ru.

Since 2011, dual power has reigned in Libya. It was established after the overthrow and assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Currently, in the east of the country there is a parliament elected by the people supported by the LNA, and in the west – formed by the support of the UN and the European Union, the PNS, headed by Fayez Sarraj. The authorities of the eastern part of Libya operate independently of Tripoli.

Both parties enjoy the support of foreign states.

GNA is actively helping Turkey. Earlier it became known that Ankara will openly take part in the settlement of the Libyan conflict after the PNS concluded a defense agreement with the Turkish side.

The document was signed in Tripoli during the visit of the Turkish Minister of Defense and the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Al-Hadas TV channel noted. Under the agreement of Turkey, the right is granted to deploy its military base in Libya, and all Turkish troops receive diplomatic status.

In addition, according to the report, advisers and military from Turkey will receive immunity from prosecution, and Ankara will have legal powers to protect the GNA. The agreement allows the Turkish side to participate in the formation of a new military intelligence agency and security structures for Turkish companies located in Libya

At the same time, LNA enjoys support from Egypt. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a review of troops at a base in the Western Military District on June 20 said that his country could intervene in hostilities in Libya.

According to him, the purpose of this operation is to stop the bloodshed in a neighboring country and ensure border security. He assured that such a move would have a legitimate status, and the Egyptian troops would only advance if the Libyans asked for it.

And after almost a month, the Libyans really asked Cairo about it. The Libyan House of Representatives – the elected permanent parliament operating in the east under the LNA – has allowed Egypt to intervene in the conflict with the PNS.

“In light of the fact that our homeland is being directly invaded by Turkey, as well as violation of the sovereignty of Libya <…> we call on fraternal Egyptian troops to join the Libyan army to counter the occupation and protect the security of the country and the entire region,” the website says legislative body.

According to Farhad Ibrahimov, if Egypt still decides to enter into armed conflict in Libya, the Middle East will face a large-scale war with the most unpredictable consequences.

“Of course, if Haftar is left alone with Faraj and Turkey supporting him, then control over Sirte by the LNA will be lost. At the same time, if Egypt comprehensively joins the war, the situation could change dramatically, given the fact that its army is the most efficient in the Arab world. Cairo has repeatedly stated its intention to support Khalifa Haftar, emphasizing that in the event of the capture of Sirte by Turkish troops, the “red line” will be suppressed, which will lead to the invasion of the Egyptian military in the neighboring country. Thus, Egypt is determined and openly sends signals to Turkey,” the expert emphasized.

Against this background, there is a threat not only of continuing the intra-Libyan conflict, but also of the beginning of a confrontation between Turkey and Egypt on this territory. This opportunity is also recognized by the Turkish Foreign Minister.

According to him, if tension continues in Libya, this could lead to a direct clash of foreign forces.

At the same time, the Minister assured that Turkey is opposed to “escalating the situation” and military clashes.

“Turkey and Egypt are afraid of each other. If there is a clash between them, the Turks will only lose on this. I admit the victory of Turkey over the Egyptians, but the Egyptian army is now quite confident. Turkey can make different statements, but in any case, such a confrontation is not beneficial for it, ” Aleksey Malashenko is sure.

In turn, Veniamin Popov is convinced that a military solution to the Libyan issue does not exist, and the situation can be changed only at the negotiating table. “The offensive will not give anything, there will not be a radical solution to this issue. For almost ten years, the country has almost slipped into oblivion, because it is deprived of statehood,” the expert concluded.

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