Continued European and American absence and constant pressure by the United Nations have left room in Libya for the increased influence of Turkey and Russia who could prefer the division of Libya into a Russia-influenced east and a Turkish-dominated west, Ethan Chorin, a former U.S. diplomat said.
A disastrously mismanaged 2011 intervention in Libya by NATO and the United States led to the overthrow of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi but left Libya’s fragile revolutionary government exposed to manipulation from other regional powers, notably Turkey and Qatar, Chorin said in Newsweek on Friday.
Turkey and Qatar back the U.N.-recognised government in Tripoli which has been locked in conflict with General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which has seized control of the country’s east and south after four years of fighting, Chorin said.
Haftar has been backed by Turkey and Qatar’s rivals in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, while Russia entered the Libyan equation last year by sending mercenaries of the Kremlin-linked Wagner group to Libya to support Haftar.
“Continued European and American absence and constant pressure by the United Nations have left room for Turkey and Russia to discover a deal that would advance their individual and mutual interests while undermining Western influence in the Mediterranean,” Chorin said.
The former diplomat said the international community’s ceasefire efforts in Berlin two weeks ago might have silently condemned Libya to a formal split between east and west.
In November, Ankara and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli signed a mutual defence treaty and a maritime borders deal, which has strengthened Turkey’s hands in Libya’s proxy war.
“A plausible consequence of these deals done under the wing of the cease-fire is the division of Libya into a Russia-influenced east and a Turkish-dominated West,” Chorin said. “And this may suit both Turkey and Russia’s purposes fine.”
“Most of Libyan energy is in the east, but the west has resources as well—and for both Russia and Turkey, something is a lot better than nothing—especially if it comes with a weakened NATO and a bickering European Union,” the former diplomat said.