Thursday, May 11, 2017

Lybia Achieves Political Breakthrough: Russia Has Special Role To Play

It looks like the civil war in Libya is coming to an end, militant Islam is being beaten back. The
Libyan people are deeply distrustful of the US and so are turning to the Russians for help.

The consequences of the 2011 NATO operation in Libya were more than disastrous. The events in the divided and war-torn country have been extremely disturbing until recently. An intervention was an issue on the international agenda. Libya has been mired in a conflict between two competing governments since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 after a NATO-led intervention. The problems facing the country, such as rivalry between two administrations in Tripoli and Tobruk, internal fighting between various armed formations, tribes and city-states, the ruined economy and uncontrolled flows of weapons seemed to be almost insurmountable.

It all changed on May 2. Fayez Al Sarraj, the Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, and Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the country’s most powerful military leader and the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) representing the House of Representatives (HoR) located in Tobruk, met in Abu Dhabi.

The LNA is the most powerful military force in Libya, which has scored a number of battlefield successes against the Islamic State group and other militias in the eastern part of the country, pushing them mostly out of Benghazi, Derna and other areas.

The very fact that the dialogue has finally started in Libya is a success attributable to the broker states – the UAE, Egypt, Italy and Russia – an actor which has a special role to play. In late 2016, the team of Libyan MPs headed by Aguila Saleh Issa, President of Libyan House of Representatives (HoR), visited Moscow.

Libya needs help. It is estimated that there are 6,000 Islamic State fighters in Libya. The country’s proximity to Europe is a security concern for the Old Continent. The country is an ideal launching pad for terrorist attacks. Libyan insecurity could affect Europe’s oil and natural gas interests. Instability threatens the whole Maghreb. Greater conflict could produce even more refugees. Russia and the West face a common threat. The need to normalize the situation in Libya unites rather than divides them.

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