EYE ON LIBYA: US Consults With Turkey While Three EU Nations Move On Sanctions

By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – The quest for a political solution in Libya remains front and center as evidenced on Wednesday when U.S. Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland was in Ankara to consult with senior Turkish officials. In a formal statement from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Norland expressed his concern about the ongoing foreign military presence in Libya.  The U.S. ambassador stated “the urgent need” to support the Libyan people who want to end the conflict – urging all involved parties to resume UN-facilitated “political dialogue.” The statement further explained that  Norland raised the prospects of reaching a demilitarized solution in central Libya that would involve a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from the North African nation. The ambassador also emphasized the need for Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) to restart its oil exports.

The U.S. Embassy said the visit took place after phone calls between President Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Norland also visited Cairo earlier this week to discuss possible avenues of peace in Libya. He also met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Tobruk – Aquila Saleh, for talks.

Meanwhile, Germany, France and Italy who warned in June that they were considering sanctions against those violating the United Nations arms embargo, now plan on moving forward on EU sanctions in an attempt to quell the continuing supply of weapons to Libya. All three nations agreed on a list of companies and individuals who have been violating the arms embargo, established in 2011. According to EU sources who spoke to DPA news agency, the companies targeted for sanctions include three firms from Turkey, Jordan and Kazakhstan along with two individuals from Libya. In a joint statement, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy said: “We are prepared to consider a possible use of sanctions if infringements against the land, sea and air embargo continue.”

In the meantime, contentious issues remain unresolved as French President Emmanuel Macron continues to accuse Turkey of violating the arms embargo while remaining silent on the obvious involvement of Russia’s Wagner Group, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt who back warlord Khalifa Haftar. The Turkish government supports the UN-backed and internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) while Russia, Egypt, the UAE and Jordan support Haftar. Germany, France and Italy would welcome a solution to the conflict to block gangs of smugglers bringing refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

A major issue for the GNA is what Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj previously deemed as the EU’s lack of immediate involvement while the GNA attempted to ward off Haftar’s indiscriminate rocket attacks on city infrastructure that injured and killed scores of Libyan civilians. That is the major reason Sarraj said he agreed to sign a dual pact with Turkey last December to obtain assistance in keeping Haftar and his militias from invading Tripoli. Discussions have been ongoing in the last several weeks to attempt to return all parties involved to the negotiating table. U.S. lawmakers also plan to utilize a resolution from the U.S. Congress known as The Libya Stabilization Act that would impose sanctions on nations and individuals instigating violence in Libya while also providing a strategy to counter Russian influence in the region which has become gradually more pronounced with the absence of a U.S. military presence in Libya since 2012.

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