German involvement in Operation Irini adds new dimension to Libya conflict – Russia expert

Berlin’s latest contribution to the European Union’s naval operation to enforce the U.N. arms embargo on war-torn Libya signals further rapprochement between Germany, France and Russia, former Turkish diplomat and Russia expert Aydın Sezer told Ahval in a podcast.

On Aug. 4, the German frigate “Hamburg” left the North Sea to join Operation Irini, an EU mission launched in April that is tasked with preventing the flow of weapons into oil-rich North African country, where an ongoing civil war is at risk of becoming a direct conflict among intervening foreign powers.

"Germany was in a reliable position (in the conflict), where it maintained its impartiality. But with the deployment of the German vessel, we are seeing days in which Germany is transitioning into a more active and pressing role, along with Russia and France,” Sezer said.

World leaders have been frustrated with countries like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates openly flouting the embargo.

Ankara throws its weight behind Libya’s U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), bolstering the GNA-allied forces with Turkish drones, armoured vehicles, military advisers and Syrian mercenaries against the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Russia, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

 A joint statement released by Turkey and Russia on July 22 was evidence that Moscow had succeeded in convincing Ankara that a military solution was not possible in Libya, Sezer said, discussing other developments in the North African conflict.

Last month, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara and Moscow agreed to help advance intra-Libyan political dialogue, calling upon involved parties to take measures that ensure safe humanitarian access and the delivery of urgent assistance to those in need. 

The latest phase of the conflict in Libya began in April 2019, when Haftar launched an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli and unseat the GNA.

While Russia and Turkey have been stressing the need for a non-military solution in the Libya for weeks, this does not mean that either country is making a change regarding their activities and stance on the ground in Libya, Sezer said.

The analyst drew attention to Turkey’s recent diplomatic contacts with Malta, saying that Operation Irini stood as a barrier in cooperation between the two countries in Libya.

The Maltese and Turkish foreign ministers met in Tripoli on Aug. 7 to discuss the latest developments in Libya and reassert their support for the GNA. The pair also met GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

"Turkey has until today cited U.N. Security Council Resolution on Libya 2259 in maintaining its activities and operation in Libya,” Sezer said. "And the United States, which began seriously supporting Haftar after 2017, has recently begun to paint the appearance that it is supporting Turkey after realising the expanding scope of Russia’s influence in the country.”

However, this does not mean that Ankara is in a complete cooperation with Washington in the East Mediterranean and the east of the Euphrates River, Sezer said.

Turkey, for its part, has demonstrated a radical change in its stance on Libya in three different domains, according to the July 22 joint declaration with Moscow, the Russia expert told Ahval.

"The first is a confirmation of Turkey’s determination to combat terrorism in Libya. The second, is an emphasis on respecting the decisions of the United Nations and confirmation of the Berlin Conference,” Sezer said, referring to a peace conference that included countries intervening in Libya.