NATO’s call for a political solution comes as the Libyan conflict evolves into a proxy war between rival foreign powers seeking regional primacy.
Rabat – Amid fears of further escalations in the lingering conflict in Libya, NATO has called for “a political solution” to the crisis, urging all parties to uphold the UN-imposed arms embargo.
Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held a phone call on Wednesday with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. The NATO official reiterated the organization’s support for the UN’s call for an immediate cease-fire and an inclusive political dialogue to solve Libya’s conflict.
Moves to meet the UN’s call for a ceasefire materialized on Friday, although there is no agreement yet between the rival parties.
The two officials discussed the escalating tensions in the broader Eastern Mediterranean and on the Libyan front, according to a report in the Libya Observer.
In the call, the NATO representative also urged the Turkish minister to refrain from military involvement in Libya and prioritize a political process.
Turkey is heavily involved in Libya alongside the Tripoli-based and UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in its fight against the Tobruk-based and Haftar-led Libyan National Army (LNA). The country has emerged as a game-changer and an indispensable interlocutor.
Of the two officials’ discussions on the fragile situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the report noted: “Stoltenberg expressed his concern about the tension in the area, emphasizing that dialogue and reducing tension would be good for the region and that the situation must be solved in the spirit of solidarity, within the allies and in line with the international law.”
NATO’s call for a political solution comes amid pointed disagreements between Libya’s two warring factions — the GNA and LNA — and their numerous foreign backers.
In recent years, the Libyan conflict has significantly transformed. It turned from hostilities between various Libyan tribes seeking control of resource-rich territories into a proxy war between several foreign countries. Observers believe the foreign backers are using Libya’s conflict to vie for strategic influence in the North African country and the larger Eastern Mediterranean.
France and Turkey, two NATO allies, are supporting opposing sides in the Libya conflict—although France continues to deny its involvement with Haftar’s LNA forces.
The two countries have since engaged in a flurry of diplomatic tensions. There are fears that their continued war of words could at some point turn into a direct confrontation in Libya or elsewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. In Libya as elsewhere in their protracted diplomatic hostility, Ankara and Paris are accusing each other of hypocrisy and imperial or neo-colonial ambitions.
Meanwhile, Egypt, whose parliament has already greenlighted an intervention, insists it is poised for a military response to Turkey’s “provocations” in Libya. A Haftar backer, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has reportedly ordered the military to stand ready to come to Haftar’s rescue whenever needed.
Russia and the UAE are the two other foreign powers actively engaged in Libya. Both currently stand with Haftar’s forces, albeit for different reasons.
Armed with its newfound and growing assertiveness in Eurasia and Syria, Russia is hellbent on showcasing its strength in shaping some of the world’s most sensitive and entrenched issues.
The UAE, for its part, seeks to further capitalize on its relative regional power. Abu Dhabi wants to be an indispensable regional player, and controlling Libya would be a considerable gain. Moreover, Turkey’s involvement in Libya has apparently further bolstered the UAE’s Libyan ambitions, with the Gulf country viewing Turkey as one its most serious strategic foes.
Observers widely expect that the standoff between the two countries, which many trace back to Ankara’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, is most likely to escalate on the Libyan front. In the past months, Abu Dhabi and Ankara have repeatedly accused each other of breaching the UN-imposed arms embargo on Libya.
With long-running rituals of accusations and counter-accusations, and with each foreign power determined to cement its regional primacy, it remains to be seen whether NATO’s call for a political solution in Libya will fall on receptive ears.