Turkish intervention risks Syria scenario for Libya, say experts

Libyan protesters gather during a demonstration against the Turkish parliament's decision to send Turkish forces to Libya, in Benghazi, Libya January 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 05 January 2020

Turkish intervention risks Syria scenario for Libya, say experts

  • Ankara has already sent the GNA drones, according to the UN

PARIS: Turkey’s decision to approve the deployment of troops to Libya risks plunging the North African nation deeper into a Syrian-style proxy war between regional powers including Russia, experts warn.
Turkey and Qatar have taken the side of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli, which has been under sustained attack since April from the forces of eastern-based military strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar, who has superior air power, is backed by Turkey’s regional rivals. On Thursday, Turkish MPs passed a bill approving a military deployment in Libya to bolster the beleaguered GNA.
No date was given for the potential troop deployment, which would draw Ankara deeper into a conflict in which Haftar’s forces, who oppose Islamist movements close to Ankara, have the upper hand.
Ankara has already sent the GNA drones, according to the UN.
Some reports have suggested that Ankara has sent in some of the Syrian rebels that led a Turkish intervention against a Kurdish militia in northeast Syria in October.
Russia, whose military intervention in Syria helped turn the tide of that conflict in President Bashar Assad’s favor in 2015, has denied sending mercenaries to Libya.
But the UN’s Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame, has slammed the foreign interference in a conflict that has turned Libya into a haven for militants and migrant smugglers.
“Arms are coming in from everywhere,” he told AFP in an interview in late November, accusing unnamed “external parties” of causing increased civilian casualties through drone strikes.
Like the Syrian conflict, the Libyan war has developed into a “very complex” power play between Ankara and Moscow who are not allies but whose interests sometimes converge, Jalel Harchaoui, a researcher on Libya at Dutch think tank Clingendael Institute, told AFP.
Europe, meanwhile, has been relegated to the role of onlookers, in a war which has facilitated the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe.
Attempts by French President Emmanuel Macron to broker a peace deal by inviting Haftar to talks in Paris with the GNA in 2017, have come to naught.
As France scales back its mediation attempts following criticism of its perceived pro-Haftar bias, Germany has stepped in to try fill the void.
Berlin has invited regional players to a UN-backed conference in Berlin planned for January.
“The West isn’t leading the way in Libya. The Russians and Turks will do their own Yalta on Libya,” Harchaoui predicted.


Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

Updated 20 January 2020

Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

  • The meeting will touch on “security developments” in the country
  • Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s under-fire president is set to meet Monday with top security officials to discuss rare violence over the weekend that left hundreds wounded in the protest-hit country.

Michel Aoun will be joined by the care-taker ministers of the interior and defense as well as the chiefs of the military and security agencies in the early afternoon, his office said in a statement.

The meeting will touch on “security developments” in a country rocked since October 17 by unprecedented protests against a political class deemed incompetent, corrupt and responsible for an ever-deepening economic crisis.

It will also address “measures that need to be taken to preserve peace and stability,” the state-run National News agency (NNA) reported.

Demonstrators at the weekend lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a flashpoint road near parliament.

Over the most violent weekend in three months of street protests, some 530 were wounded on both sides, according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defense.

Lawyers and rights groups have condemned the “excessive” and “brutal” use of force by security forces.

Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”

Internal Security Forces, for their part, have urged demonstrators to abstain from assaulting riot police and damaging public or private property.
Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the debt-ridden country sinks deeper into a financial crisis.

Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of popular pressure.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over ministerial posts and portfolios.

Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties.

The United Nations’ envoy to Lebanon pinned the blame for the violence on politicians.

“Anger of the people is understandable, but it is different from vandalism of political manipulators, that must be stopped,” Jan Kubis wrote on Twitter on Saturday.