Libya: Geopolitics of protracted civil war in the western Mediterranean

27-04-2020

Libya's third civil war in a decade began when Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019. Fayez al-Sarraj, leader of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) turned to Turkey for military help in an effort to remain in power. Libya has been divided since 2014 into rival military and political camps, based respectively in the capital Tripoli and in the east. The renewed armed conflict risks not only dismantling the fragile modus vivendi of these two administrations but also enhancing the interference of regional players that are using this conflict for their own geostrategic interests. A growing number of countries and international organisations, among the latter the United Nations and the European Union, have intervened ever more decisively in the conflict. Taking into account that warring Libyan factions, broadly aligned with either the GNA or the LNA, are vying for foreign support and arms supplies, the critical point for a peaceful solution is to enforce the UN arms embargo. To this end, following the January 2020 Berlin conference on Libya, the EU launched, on 31 March 2020, a new common security and defence policy mission: Operation EU Active Surveillance (Operation Irini), that has as its goal the implementation of the arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council. The European Union remains a supporter of the UN-led efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the political and security crisis in the country. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Libya hosts around 45 000 refugees and asylum-seekers from troubled areas in the region. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Libyans have been internally displaced due to ongoing military conflicts. Following the 90 % decrease in the number of Libyan migrants heading for Europe in recent years, compared to the peak in 2014-2016, the main efforts of the international community are focused on securing a ceasefire and bringing about a lasting political solution to the internal conflict, while honouring the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement.

Libya's third civil war in a decade began when Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive on Tripoli in April 2019. Fayez al-Sarraj, leader of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) turned to Turkey for military help in an effort to remain in power. Libya has been divided since 2014 into rival military and political camps, based respectively in the capital Tripoli and in the east. The renewed armed conflict risks not only dismantling the fragile modus vivendi of these two administrations but also enhancing the interference of regional players that are using this conflict for their own geostrategic interests. A growing number of countries and international organisations, among the latter the United Nations and the European Union, have intervened ever more decisively in the conflict. Taking into account that warring Libyan factions, broadly aligned with either the GNA or the LNA, are vying for foreign support and arms supplies, the critical point for a peaceful solution is to enforce the UN arms embargo. To this end, following the January 2020 Berlin conference on Libya, the EU launched, on 31 March 2020, a new common security and defence policy mission: Operation EU Active Surveillance (Operation Irini), that has as its goal the implementation of the arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council. The European Union remains a supporter of the UN-led efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the political and security crisis in the country. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Libya hosts around 45 000 refugees and asylum-seekers from troubled areas in the region. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Libyans have been internally displaced due to ongoing military conflicts. Following the 90 % decrease in the number of Libyan migrants heading for Europe in recent years, compared to the peak in 2014-2016, the main efforts of the international community are focused on securing a ceasefire and bringing about a lasting political solution to the internal conflict, while honouring the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement.