GNA, bolstered by Turkish intervention, pins unfounded blame on UAE

The ongoing GNA offensive has so far indicated that the government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and its key ally Turkey are hoping to prolong the war.
Wednesday 10/06/2020
A fighter with Libya’s Government of National Accord fires rockets from a position near the town of Garabulli toward the city of Tarhuna, southwest of Tripoli, last April. (AFP)
A fighter with Libya’s Government of National Accord fires rockets from a position near the town of Garabulli toward the city of Tarhuna, southwest of Tripoli, last April. (AFP)

TUNIS – Tensions between Libya’s Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the United Arab Emirates reached new heights after the Arab Gulf nation voiced its support for the Cairo Declaration, an Egyptian initiative calling for the implementation of a ceasefire in Libya and a return to the political process. Instead of engaging the political process, the GNA, now emboldened by a series of victories on the ground, is pushing ahead with violence in the Libyan cities of Tarhuna, Sirte, Jufra and Bani Walid.

Reported acts of extrajudicial killings, looting and vandalism, especially in Tarhuna, were earlier condemned by the United Nations, with the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) urging the GNA to carry out a “prompt and impartial investigation” into the deaths.

However, the GNA has so far failed to launch a serious investigation into reports of violence, laying the blame on “foreign forces” in an attempt to divert attention from what was committed under its watch, with Turkish support.

The GNA’s media and diplomatic manoeuvres to conceal the recent crimes have placed a number of countries into the crosshairs of false accusations, according to experts.

The UAE, supportive of a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table, is one of a number of countries that are currently being attacked through a concerted campaign that uses media to disseminate baseless accusations and turns diplomacy into a game of smoke and mirrors to confuse the international community.

Earlier in May, the campaign escalated when Libya’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Taher al-Sunni, announced that his country would sue the UAE in international court for providing military support to the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Soon after Sunni’s announcement, Qatari and Turkish news outlets, notably the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV channel and the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency, began to aggressively push the GNA’s accusations, without providing or examining evidence.

The campaign against the UAE, among other countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, revealed once again the ideological and strategic divisions of the Libyan conflict that is being exacerbated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s regional axis, feeding into Turkish and Qatari ambitions.

The UAE recently responded to the GNA’s accusations, rejecting the “false claims” made by Sunni in a letter to the UN, according to a statement by the Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The UAE “has called for a peaceful political solution and it continues to support a comprehensive and lasting political solution to the Libyan crisis,” Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said in the letter.

The Emirati ambassador also voiced her country’s support for the “legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people,” noting that the UAE still supports “an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire” and commitment “to the political process under the auspices of the United Nations.”

The Emirati letter, which builds on a joint declaration adopted earlier in May by Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece and the UAE is further condemnation of Turkey’s involvement in Libya.

The May joint declaration, to which the UAE referred, denounced Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and rejected a GNA-Turkish deal on maritime and military cooperation signed last November as a violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions on Libya.

Since the signing of the memorandum of understanding with the GNA, Turkey has been accused of using the agreements to justify its transfer of thousands of Syrian fighters and sophisticated weaponry to Libya, actions that were deemed by Western and Arab countries as a threat to peace and stability in Libya and the broader region.

As violence drags on in the North African country, concerns about Turkey’s alleged meddling and threats to regional stability are mounting, especially after the GNA rejected the Egypt-proposed ceasefire initiative and insisted on recapturing Sirte, a key gateway to the country’s main oil fields in the east, from Haftar’s LNA forces.

The ongoing GNA offensive has so far indicated that the government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and its key ally Turkey are hoping to prolong the war.

Ankara seems wary of Cairo’s intervention, fearing that Egypt’s initiative could undermine Erdogan’s efforts to carry out his war plan for control of Libya and bring in an Egyptian counterweight to his expansionist ambitions.

These developments have led the UAE to reiterate its “strong concern about Turkey’s actions in Libya and the worrying attitude of Libya’s Permanent Representative towards peace, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic makes a cessation of hostilities in Libya the utmost imperative.”

“The Permanent Representative of Libya’s statement on May 19, 2020 suggests that the Government of National Accord has no intention to cease its military activities and to reengage in a peaceful political process,” UAE representative Nusseibeh said in her letter.

Earlier this week, the UAE backed the Egyptian peace initiative in Libya, with Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash writing on Twitter that it “strengthens the Arab and international momentum for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the return to a political track.”

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the United Nations. (UN)
Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the United Nations. (UN)

The LNA has been fighting Turkey-backed GNA armed groups for over a year. The conflict eventually turned into a military stalemate, with both sides unable to take full control of Tripoli.

The GNA had previously claimed it would not go back to the negotiating table until the LNA withdrew its forces from Tripoli. However, after the LNA withdrew from the capital last week, forces loyal to the Sarraj government continued military operations.

Acts of violence were reportedly committed by GNA armed groups in Tarhuna, with the United Nations confirming the reports and revealing that over 16,000 Libyans were displaced from Tarhuna and greater Tripoli.