LIBYA: Haftar Buoyed By Russia While Turkey Condemns His War Crimes

By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – What appeared to be certain military defeat for warlord and renegade Khalifa Haftar three weeks ago, now seems to be turning in his favor since Russia deployed an additional 300 fighters including Daesh (ISIL) members and fighters from eastern Syria who Russia put on paid contracts. The warlord’s numerous defeats gave Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) the upper hand as they swiftly recaptured the majority of strategic towns, military bases and airports that Haftar’s militias had seized. Analysts and experts on Libya weighed in on what they viewed as Haftar’s overall waning support from backers Egypt, the UAE, Saudia Arabia, France and Russia. But just a  week ago, Egypt and France condemned Turkey’s role in Libya going so far as to threaten intervention if the GNA tried to recapture the strategic city of Sirte.  That area is adjacent to major oil fields and Haftar supporters are refusing to back down since they want their stake on oil in Libya.

Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar pointed out how shameful Haftar’s war crimes were as mass graves were discovered weeks ago in the recaptured town of Tarhuna that were left by his militias as well as the grisly discovery of murdered women and children. In a recent BBC-TV interview, Akar commented that Haftar’s crimes prove to the world that his allies and backers are enemies of humanity. The Turkish defense minister added that Turkey will remain in Libya as long as the GNA requires and that its presence is based on legitimate agreements with the GNA to provide military training and consultations.

On Tuesday, Libya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Muhammed Al-Giblawi said that the International Criminal Court (ICC) accepted a request from Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s Presidential Council to send a specialized team to investigate and gather data on the crimes committed by Haftar militias in Tarhuna and southern Tripoli. In a statement to the press, Al-Giblawi stated that ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensoda explained that a team mission is scheduled for mid-July while emphasizing the need for total cooperation between the investigative team and relevant authorities in Libya.  

In the meantime, a startling revelation was put forth by former UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame in an interview with the Swiss-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue where he criticized the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) position on the Libyan conflict. Salame explained that during the Berlin Conference that was supposed to convene to facilitate a lasting ceasefire that Haftar made a surprise military attack and that the GNA became a victim of the Security Council members’ “hypocrisy,” since no sanctions were ever imposed on Haftar nor was he condemned for the attack – Salame said.

In addition, Salame sharply criticized the Security Council’s position on Libya stating that, “important countries not only were supporting the attack on Tripoli, but were plotting exactly against the holding of the National Conference – did not want it to happen.” The former envoy to Libya said he felt “stabbed in the back” by a majority of Security Council members because as Salame commented, “the day he attacked Tripoli, Haftar had most of them supporting him.” He emphasized that these leaders “did not have conscience” since they could have saved people’s lives. Salame added that the leaders of those countries just toyed with the future of Libyans and that the “hypocrisy” from those countries supporting Haftar resulted in 14 months of bloodshed. At that time, the UK did submit a draft resolution to the Security Council to condemn Haftar’s attack and to propose a ceasefire. Meanwhile, Russia, the U.S. and France did not support the proposal which led to Haftar attacking Tripoli, Salame commented.

The most pressing issue in the Libya conflict right now is the multitude of landmines planted by Haftar militias that continue to kill and maim Libyan citizens. Stephanie Williams, head of the United Nations Mission In Libya (UNSMIL) emphasized that forces loyal to  Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA) planted those mines in the region with no regard for civilians or civilian areas. So far, at lease 40 people including women and children died from the landmine blasts with more than 100 people injured. 

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