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Nicholas Morgan

Analyst at Ahval

Ivan Bocharov

Referent at the Russian International Affairs Council

Last month, Libya’s warring factions agreed on a joint administration to lead the country until elections scheduled for December. Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a Libyan businessman from the western city of Misrata, was named as interim Prime Minister, while Mohammad Younes Menfi, Libya’s former ambassador to Greece, will serve as the country’s President. Nicholas Morgan, journalist and analyst at Ahval, spoke with Ivan Bocharov, Referent at the Russian International Affairs Council, about the Libyan conflict.

Last month, Libya’s warring factions agreed on a joint administration to lead the country until elections scheduled for December. Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a Libyan businessman from the western city of Misrata, was named as interim Prime Minister, while Mohammad Younes Menfi, Libya’s former ambassador to Greece, will serve as the country’s President. Nicholas Morgan, journalist and analyst at Ahval, spoke with Ivan Bocharov, Referent at the Russian International Affairs Council, about the Libyan conflict.

Key points:

  • The selected candidates are largely political unknowns, which causes uncertainty as to whether they could succeed in their roles. It is too early to judge how any new government might fit Russian or Turkish designs for Libya.
  • Following the 2011 NATO intervention against the nation’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi, efforts to ensure stability in Libya have been complicated by a sea of armed factions with deep grudges against one another and often backed by competing international powers.
  • Turkey has thrown its support behind the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, while Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have backed the rivalling Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar.
  • Facing regional isolation and a struggling economy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has staked much on the success of his Libya policy. Since the inception of its military intervention in January 2020, Turkey has signed economic packages with the GNA $35 billion worth in construction projects alone. Turkey and the GNA have also negotiated a maritime pact that cuts across internationally recognized waters in the Mediterranean which belong to Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, and where competition, having discovered natural gas reserves, is heating up.
  • Russia’s motives in Libya are primarily economic. After Gaddafi was toppled, Russia, much like Turkey, lost lucrative contracts, and Moscow is now keen on salvaging unfulfilled deals. Unlike Turkey, however, Russia has fewer political goals in Libya, which allows for a greater degree of flexibility.
  • One of the thorniest issues facing Libya’s new interim government is the agreed October deadline for foreign forces to withdraw from the country. It is unclear how the withdrawal will take place, and no definitive outcome was ultimately likely. Erdogan has said he will not pull troops out until others do so first, with both Turkey and Russia denying any use of unconventional forces in Libya.
  • Another largely unknown variable is the attitude of the new U.S. President Joe Biden. Libya did not quite feature during his electoral campaign. Under Biden, though, the U.S. Department of State has already taken a more strident tone, calling on both Turkey and Russia to withdraw. As Biden’s top advisors, Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, and Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, supported the initial NATO intervention in Libya. However, Biden opposed the move while serving as Vice President to Barack Obama. Biden may follow the Trump administration’s hands-off approach instead, leaving Russia and Turkey’s calculations unaltered.
  • All the same, Libya edges closer towards a political resolution, with Turkey and Russia remaining fundamentally at odds over the country’s future. Differences between the two countries are unlikely to escalate into a larger conflict but are still a cause for concern in Moscow.

Firstly published at Ahval.

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