What’s happening in Libya while Europe is busy with the coronavirus?
While Europe is engaged in the fight against coronavirus, fighting between the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and armed groups affiliated to the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli continues in Libya. On April 4, 2019, exactly one year ago General Haftar launched the operation to free the capital Tripoli from militias and terrorist groups that are holding the Libyan political process hostage. Compared to a year ago, the situation worsened, especially due to the involvement of numerous foreign actors, in particular from Turkey, which sent military vehicles and equipment to Tripoli, as well as transferring thousands of Syrian rebels from Idlib.
So, while Europe’s attention is focused on the ongoing health emergency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plays the whole game by sending ships loaded with weapons daily, prolonging the conflict and the suffering of Libyan people. Haftar’s attempt to free Tripoli in a few days, after being welcomed in Sirte and the southern regions, was unsuccessful and a sort of attrition war ensued thanks to the entry of Turkish-Syrian forces. Today there is an escalation under the aspect of military technology at all levels, with an increase in the use of drones and the installation of anti-air defense systems sent to Tripoli and Misurata from Ankara.
Considering this situation, the Berlin conference that took place in January continues to have little chance of success, despite the fact that Europe has launched the Joint Irini Mission to monitor the arms embargo on Libya. The area of action in which Irini will exercise could in fact be decisive in blocking the continuous flow of weapons and terrorists from Turkey, but risks coming late considering the time that has elapsed since its announcement that it has played in favor of Erdogan and the Islamists. It is clear that if the LNA has come to bomb the center of Tripoli, it has received strong support from local communities and international green light as well, while the GNA has leveraged illegitimate agreements with Ankara in order to remain alive. In the country also the blockade of oil production and export continue by the Eastern and Southern tribes, which combined with the collapse of fuel prices, could accelerate and give a turn to the crisis in favor of the Libyan people who expressed their support for the armed forces.