Libyan crisis now a trans-Mediterranean concern

Thursday, 2019-05-16 07:09:52
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Prime Minister of Libya’s internationally recognised GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, poses with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium, May 13, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – The foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) member countries recently met in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss solutions to the Libyan crisis. European nations are concerned about a new wave of migration as many people seek to flee violence in Libya, while information concerning outside interference makes the situation in the North African country increasingly complicated.

Conflict in Libya, especially in the capital city of Tripoli, has been emerging as a new hot spot, threatening peace and security in the region. Since the Libyan National Army (LNA), loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, launched a military campaign aimed at Tripoli, Libya has been engulfed in bloody violence. According to the World Health Organisation, conflict has killed 454 people, left more than 2,154 dead, and forced nearly 60,000 others to flee their homes for refuge. More worrisome, the North African media recently reported that there was new evidence of the involvement of foreign mercenaries in the forces of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). The news was released in the context of the LNA’s increasingly fierce attacks to claim control of the capital, where the GNA is headquartered. The pro-GNA forces are also thought to consist of many rebel groups, criminals and extremists.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation around Tripoli has been getting worse and worse, with such a densely populated area gradually becoming a battlefield of fierce fighting. Hospitals around the capital are struggling to cope with a serious shortage of medicines, electricity and water. The Libyan people are undergoing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with numerous difficulties and uncertainties, as the conflict shows no signs of cooling down. General Haftar even urged the LNA soldiers in the east to strengthen their attacks on the capital, when he was said to have called the holy month of Ramadan (starting on May 6) in Libya as a month of holy war.

Across the Mediterranean coast, just over 300 kilometres from Libya, European countries have expressed concern over the escalating violence in the North African nation. As a country directly exposed to waves of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, Italy recently warned the EU about the risk of refugees pouring into “the old continent” due to the uncertainties in Libya. For many years, the North African country has become a transit for ships carrying illegal migrants across the Mediterranean into Europe. In the context of the “fire pan of conflict” breaking out in Libya, Italy urged the EU to prepare an action plan to deal with a potential wave of refugees fleeing the conflict.

Confronted with the fierce attacks launched by the LNA forces, Prime Minister of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, recently arrived in Brussels to call for EU support to end the conflict. The GNA accused the US and some allies of supporting Haftar’s forces, turning Libya into a proxy battlefield and triggering the wave of migrants to Europe. In this regard, the EU called on all parties and countries concerned to immediately cease military activities in Libya and restart a political dialogue, for the benefit of the Libyan people. The EU foreign ministers issued a statement urging all conflict parties in Libya to immediately implement a ceasefire and pledge to have dialogue with the United Nations to ensure a full ceasefire, thus enabling the Libyan people to access humanitarian aid. Earlier, Prime Minister al-Sarraj had also left for Paris to hold talks with the French president, in order to call for French intervention to end the conflict in Libya, in the context that the GNA once accused Paris of providing implicit support for the LNA forces. French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Libya.

Concern has crossed over the Mediterranean, as European countries are worried about the risk of increasing refugees. The EU and the internationally recognised government in Libya are trying to find solutions to terminate the conflict and resume a political dialogue. However, Libya’s future must be decided by its people, and any external interventions will threaten to make the crisis worse.