On Monday, August 17th, Turkish, Qatari, and German defence ministers visited Tripoli, Libya for talks with the Government of National Accord (GNA). The German Foreign minister did not take part in the trilateral meeting but had a separate meeting with the Libyan counterpart. On the other hand, Turkish and Qatari ministers’ visit was an opportunity to observe the implementation of the previously established defensive arrangements with the internationally recognized GNA in Tripoli and to contribute to the ceasefire within the country.
Also, the visit came as the GNA and the Libyan National Army (LNA), under the command of strongman Khalifa Haftar, have taken positions around the strategic town of Sirte and Jufra, creating a stalemate. The government was founded in 2015 under a U.N.-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by forces loyal to Haftar. The U.N. recognizes the government headed by Sarraj as the country’s legitimate authority, as Tripoli has battled Haftar’s militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has taken more than 1,000 lives.
Currently, Germany and the United States are pressing on a truce between the rival parties so that a political process can be re-launched to end the decade-old row in Libya.
Lately, Turkey and Russia have emerged as the main power brokers in Libya’s conflict, with military front lines settling in recent weeks around the central coastal town of Sirte. The two countries’ leaders spoke by phone about Libya on Monday.
As for the official visit, a military ceremony was held for the Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Staff General Yaşar Güler upon their arrival at the Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli. Following the ceremony, Akar and Güler went to the Defence Security Cooperation and Training Assistance Advisory Command, which was created as part of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Turkey and Libya, and met Libyan Deputy Defence Minister Salahaddin Abdullah an-Namrush.
On November 27th, 2019, Ankara and Tripoli signed two MoUs; one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. The maritime pact asserted Turkey’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area. It went into effect on December 8th. Following the military cooperation deal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara may consider sending troops to Libya if the internationally recognized Tripoli government made such a request.
Afterwards, minister Akar held a trilateral meeting with his Qatari counterpart Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah (both supporting the political resolution of the conflict) and Libyan premier Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli. Also, the Turkish defence minister held another trilateral meeting with his Qatari counterpart and Libya’s Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha.
All talks took place under a deal signed between Turkey and Libya in late 2019 in the field of security and defence cooperation that includes training and consultation provided by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to the GNA troops. Turkish Defence Minister Akar underlined in his visit that Turkey stands by the United Nations-recognized GNA and that “Libya belongs to the Libyan people.”
As a conclusion of the meeting, Libya has agreed with Turkey and Qatar to sign a tripartite deal for military cooperation to boost the capabilities of the Libyan military. The agreement was announced by Libya’s deputy defence minister on Monday and Turkey and Qatar are set to establish facilities in Libya for military training and consultancy.
“We believe that we will achieve the wanted results by supporting our Libyan brothers in their just cause,” Hulusi Akar said in Tripoli on Monday. “In accordance with our president’s instructions, we will in the upcoming period make all kinds of efforts as we have until today to make the cease-fire permanent for the sake of Libya’s unity, comfort and peace. In this manner, our Qatari brothers are also with us,” Akar stated, adding that an-Namrush is also doing everything possible for peace in the war-ravaged country.
As for the German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass, he declared that “An end to the oil blockade and a fairer distribution of oil revenues are also crucial for a solution to the conflict in Libya”.
The country has the capacity to produce 1.7 million barrels of oil per day. However, this amount fell to 92,000 barrels per day, which is a remarkable drop for a country that was a crucial provider of both oil and gas to Europe. Since Libya is struggling with divided institutions, dysfunction, corruption, and a struggling economy, little or no oil revenues come in, even though the country has the largest proven crude oil reserves in Africa at 48.4 billion barrels. Natural gas and oil revenues make up approximately 90% of the government’s revenue.
Previous attempts to secure a ceasefire and a political deal in Libya – including at an international conference in Germany’s capital, Berlin, in January – have stalled. German Foreign Minister Maas, who met his Libyan counterpart but not the Turkish or Qatari delegations, said the process started in Berlin remained the framework for resolving the conflict, and backed calls for a demilitarized zone around Sirte. “We see a deceptive calm in Libya right now. Both sides and their international allies are continuing to arm the country on a massive scale and are sticking to preconditions for a ceasefire,” he said.
For his part, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala said his country does not need more initiatives to resolve the conflict but a constitution that paves the way for democratic elections.
Siala added that the GNA strongly rejected Operation Irini, a European Union mission aimed at enforcing a toothless 2011 UN arms embargo, saying it “does not monitor the transfer of weapons and mercenaries to the aggressor”.
Maas was due to travel to Abu Dhabi to meet his UAE counterpart there to urge him to use the country’s influence with Haftar “in line with the Berlin summit”.