TRT World spoke to Guma al Gamaty, the Special Envoy of UN-recognised Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj, who explained how warlord Khalifa Haftar's misadventures are delaying peace-building in wartorn Libya.
TRT WORLD: How would you describe the current military situation in the capital Tripoli in view of the ongoing offensive of Khalifa Haftar and why does the warlord regularly target Mitiga airport in particular?
GUMA AL GAMATY: The military situation in Tripoli is active with daily shelling from the Haftar side and attempts by his forces to penetrate the capital Tripoli, but they are always rebuffed causing them heavy casualties. There is clearly no adherence to or respect of any truce and the ceasefire only signed by the GNA side in Moscow has failed because Haftar does not have any intention of stopping the war.
Haftar keeps shelling Mitiga airport from the ground with Grad missiles because he wants to stop civilian flights in the hope the general population experiences harsh difficulties in travelling, gets angry and turns against the GNA, but this tactic has not worked so far.
Haftar also believes that Mitiga airport receives military personnel and soldiers from Turkey and he hopes to delay this process, but I believe that Turkish forces are entering Libya through many other entry points in coordination with the GNA based on the signed security agreement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared that warlord Haftar has broken the ceasefire in Libya. What do you think are the reasons why Haftar simply does not want to stick to an agreement?
GG: Haftar realised that peace and negotiations will definitely end his goal of taking over full power and control of Libya for himself and that is why the only strategy for him to achieve his goal is war and a military victory. Haftar has embarked on a one-way single (military) strategy in which he either wins all or loses all. He has no interest in politics or power-sharing or working with other Libyans on state and institution building.
How do you think Turkey could react to confront Haftar's destabilising activities in Libya?
GG: Turkey has become a major player in Libya along with Russia and I also believe that Turkey has tacit, implicit support and understanding from the US administration to play this role in Libya to achieve peace and stability. The common understanding and coordination between Turkey and Algeria is also a success for Turkey in its efforts.
I am confident that Turkey will pursue all avenues and opportunities to achieve a permanent ceasefire and lasting peace in Libya. However, if Haftar persists, as I know he will, with his war and attacks on Tripoli killing and injuring innocent children and civilians then the only option left to stabilise Libya and achieve permanent peace and security is to defeat Haftar militarily. This can be achieved by providing comprehensive military logistical support to the GNA’s Libyan National Army and forces as permitted by the recently signed security agreement (Memorium of Understanding) between Turkey and Libya’s legitimate GNA.
Various government representatives from Europe, Africa, Russia and the US met in Berlin. Which states can be listed as supporters of the internationally-recognised GNA government besides Turkey and what position does Germany in particular take?
GG: Germany takes a neutral position as it is a country that does not take part in wars and conflicts since the end of the Second World War. Germany is also a major economic power and the most important country within the EU, hence it has a big political influence that can be useful for achieving a political solution. Other countries which attended Berlin conference can be considered as neutral or sympathetic to the GNA apart from Egypt, France and Russia. The new understanding between Turkey and Russia may persuade Russia to become more neutral in the Libyan conflict. Russia also has leverage against Haftar through the use of Russian (Wagner) mercenaries. Haftar relies on the Wagner mercenaries and Russia can use this card effectively and positively for the stability of Libya by withdrawing them in return for a clear commitment from the GNA to accommodate any Russian economic interests in Libya for the mutual benefit of both Libya and Russia.
The Turkish president has criticised the UAE for financing Russian mercenaries in the ranks of Haftar. How do you assess the role of Abu Dhabi in the Libyan conflict and how much have Russian mercenaries changed the situation on the ground?
GG: The UAE is the largest supporter of Haftar in many ways, militarily, politically, financially and with intelligence support and media outlets. The UAE finances and brings mercenaries from Sudan and Chad to Libya to fight alongside Haftar. It is causing the biggest damage and is the one fuelling the Libyan conflict most. The UAE’s intentions are clearly to dominate Libya through a military ruler like Haftar, trying to replicate their success in the Egyptian model. The UAE fears genuine democratisation in Libya and fears that Libya has the economic and geopolitical competitive advantages that will threaten the whole future of the UAE and their economic model.
Turkey President Erdogan visited Algeria. What is the possibility that Algeria is going to increase its efforts to confront warlord Haftar?
GG: The visit by President Erdogan to Algeria was very important and strategic as Algeria is a strong country and an important neighbour of Libya. Algeria is against Haftar’s plans of taking over full authoritarian power in Libya and Algeria also believes that a Libya dominated by the UAE and Egyptian regimes will pose a threat to Algeria’s national security. The country will provide a crucial balance against those two Arab states supporting Haftar and the close daily coordination that exists now between Algeria and Turkey will be for the good and benefit of the Libyan people.