Turkey, UAE facing off in aerial campaign to shape Libya’s future - Bloomberg

Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are engaged in an aerial campaign in a bid to determine Libya’s future in their favour, while the United States remains mostly silent about the competition between its two allies in Middle East, Bloomberg said on Friday.

Ankara backs the internationally recognised Islamist-rooted Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) government in Tripoli, reportedly supplying drones, weapons and trucks to boost its efforts in the ongoing conflict in Libya, which has torn by violence and division since 2011.

The Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the eastern city of Benghazi, has been supported by Turkey’s regional rivals Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. The LNA forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar in April began and offensive against the GNA, in a move that has further escalated the country’s civil war.

“Neither side officially acknowledged the worst-kept secret of the North African state’s civil war: as the opponents face a stalemate on the ground, their backers in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are engaged in an aerial campaign that’s seen them target each other’s unmanned planes in a bid to determine Libya’s future in their favour,” Bloomberg said.

Three unnamed senior GNA officials told Bloomberg last month that the Tripoli-based government had received armed Turkish Bayraktar drones a short while ago.

The Tripoli government’s attack on the airfield in Jufra against commander Khalifa Haftar’s LN A forces on July 26 was carried out by Bayraktar aircraft owned and operated by Turkey, Bloomberg said citing two Western diplomats and a Libyan official, who it said had spoken on condition of anonymity.

“The UAE struck back with Chinese-made Wing Loong drones, according to the two diplomats and an Arab official, targeting Bayraktars located in the coastal city of Misrata. Airstrikes have also destroyed three Ukrainian cargo planes supplying both sides,” Bloomberg said.

While Washington indicated a tentative support for Hafta, France has quietly supported both sides, Bloomberg said.

“But for the most part, Washington, with more pressing priorities elsewhere in the world, has watched as some of its most important Middle East allies battle for dominance in an OPEC state with Africa’s largest oil reserves,” it said.

Bayraktar, the drone company, is owned by the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who last month reiterated Ankara’s support to the Tripoli government during a meeting with the head of GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, in Istanbul.