Turkey and Russia’s Endgame in Libya—And Why America Should Not Stand Still

- NATIONAL INTEREST - Oct 30, 2020 -

Thomas Trask -

America has let Turkey and Russia dominate the conflict in Libya. There will be no peace if they are allowed to dominate the ceasefire as well.

Last week’s ceasefire in Libya might have seemed almost inconceivable just a few months ago. Yet hard work remains to translate this positive step into something more durable—both for Libyans most affected by the fighting and for stability in a region vital to U.S. national security interests.

Washington largely has maintained its “lead from behind” approach in Libya ever since initially helping overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. This approach has become steadily more untenable since spring of last year, when the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) sought to bring down the rival Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli.

This ambitious offensive pushed the GNA to the ropes and compelled it to seek military salvation from Turkey last November. Ankara was quick to inject weapons and advisers, which swung the battlefield pendulum back toward stalemate. But this came with a hefty price. Tripoli signed an agreement demarcating exclusive economic zones (EEZ) with Turkey that purported to recognize Ankara’s vast offshore claims in the increasingly energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s intervention should have catapulted Libya into a major crisis point for the United States, for multiple reasons. Its maritime boundary deal with Tripoli directly and intentionally contravenes existing Greek and Cypriot EEZs that are based on international law. It also would block a planned natural gas pipeline to Italy from these countries and possibly Israel.



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