Current and Emerging Dynamics in Libya

13 Ağustos 2020



  • A new diplomatic effort is underway to try to restart talks on a lasting ceasefire in the oil-rich nation. The recapture of the international airport in Tripoli – long out of use – is the strongest symbolic victory for the Libyan government so far.1
  • The internationally recognized government and the forces fighting for them never really lost control of Tripoli after Gen Haftar launched an attack on it, but they were struggling to maintain it over the past year until they received overt military backing from Turkey.
  • The Cairo Declaration calls for a ceasefire starting on 6th June and the departure of foreign militias from the war-ravaged country. The plan has the backing of Libyan National Army head Khalifa Haftar. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi announced the plan in Cairo, alongside Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Aguila Saleh, the chief of Libya’s allied elected parliament. However, no representatives of the Government of National Accord (GNA) — which the United Nations recognizes as the legitimate Libyan government — or its allies, were present at the conference.


Calling the Egyptian Army for Intervention in Libya was called “great betrayal” by the Assembly in Tripoli


The invitation called by Saleh, the president of HoR in Tobruk, supporter of pro-coup Haftar seizing eastern Libya, to invite the army of Egypt to intervene in Libya was qualified as a big betray by the parliament in Tripoli.

Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has declared its opposition to Saleh’s decision to invite the Egyptian Military to Libya as the decision itself is against the jurisdiction of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).


Civil Wars in Libya


After the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi government, Libya was dragged into chaos, and during the war that was started in 2011 two different governments resulted. One of these governments is Tobruk HoR led by Aguila Saleh, who is supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the USA, France, Russia, and the UAE.  The other government is the national consensus government led by Fayiz es-Serac, who is supported by Turkey, the European Union, and the United Nations.

Aguila Saleh, the president of Tobruk HoR since he has assumed his duties on 5th August 2014 has deliberately run the HoR and he has made decisions concerning government in anti-democratic ways.

He has decided on his own without taking the consent of other representatives and ignoring the Suheyrat accord in inviting Egypt army to intervene Libya.

Antidemocratic ruling HoR without taking the consent of the representatives and not allowing presidential elections in HoR is one of the main reason behind the falling apart of the HoR in Tobruk.

The invitation of a foreign army to intervene to the country without the approval of the representatives and the suspension of the presidential elections were in disagreement with the constitutional declaration of Provisional National Counsel of 03 August 2011.

On 20 July 2020, in a secret vote chaired by Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, the Egyptian Parliament authorized President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to “take all necessary measures to protect the country’s national security”.


House of Representatives in Tobruk Losing Power


After the occupation of Tripoli by the Islamists during the Second Civil War, the House of Representatives (HoR) was relocated to Tobruk. The HoR in Tobruk has 200 seats and governed by Aguila Saleh Issa.

There has been a great loss of confidence and credibility of HoR during the Second Civil War because of the unjust governing style of Aguila Saleh Issa. Tobruk HoR nowadays is losing its power due to Saleh’s unregulated governmental decisions that do not include the HoR in the decision-making process. Issues that are vital to the country are decided on by Saleh without putting the issue through HoR’s vote.


Other reasons for losing power and constitutional authority are:


  • As a reaction, most of the representatives of HoR in Tobruk transferred to Tripoli.


  • The number of HoR in Tripoli became more than 70 under the president Seyyale.


  • 26 of the remaining representatives in Tobruk formed an intermediate group and called for the unification of the divided HoR.


  • 14 MP from the southern states formed a Fezzan block despite the opposition of local people.


  • Due to Saleh’s politics, now HoR is divided into three consisting of Tripoli, Fezzan, and Berka regions with 100, 40, and 60 representatives, respectively.


  • HoR President Saleh has not authorized any election for HoR presidential and has been taking decisions on his own.


  • Libyan National Army (LNA) suffering severe losses in the civil war with Khalifa Haftar leadership.


  • GNA is gaining power in the field.


  • Haftar’s claim for being the only sovereign rule in Libya and HoR’s opposition to it.


  • Saleh and Haftar have opposing views on how Libya should be governed,


  • France supports peace talks between parties under the leadership of the UN.


Turkish military assistance to the GNA is viewed as a game-changer. Sirte is the city that contains 60% of the country’s energy resources. So far, the GNA has been able to capture the gas and oil fields around Sirte.






  • If HoR in Tobruk loses completely its legacy in Libya, it will be hard for Egypt and other external powers to invade the eastern region where natural resources are about 60% of the total resources.


  • Libya is on the eve of change. Whether this will be for good or bad, only time will tell. GNA will have the power to take over Libya if the military intervention is prevented. HoR has lost its authority and power throughout the Second Civil War, and the governing style of Saleh is only met with increased distress from the civilian side.


  • Corruption of power within the HoR and Saleh’s prevention of elections within the HoR led to an increased number of representatives leaving the institution.


  • Whereas GNA has growing power and authority over Libya, GNA is recognized by the EU, the UN, and Turkey. Most members of the GNA is backed by the UN.


  • GNA can become a ruling government when its power and resource share is equally distributed over all regions. This type of politics empowers GNA in detriment of Tobruk.


  • Russia, which backed Haftar, is considered to be looking to replace him and engage with Saleh – though Moscow still supports Haftar for now. Egypt pushed for a ceasefire and political initiative to end the conflict on 6th June, which involved bringing Saleh to the table. Cairo may also consider him as a future option should Haftar endure further losses.


  • Egypt would prefer a compromise, yet its recent calls lack credibility, as it has supported Haftar’s offensive and backed authoritarian military rule in Libya. Its backtracking attracts understandable skepticism. Egypt would also seek to prevent the GNA from getting too close to its western border.


  • Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy criticized France amid their souring relations over Libya and clashing interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Though France’s position on Libya is unclear, it has long backed Haftar and still opposes Ankara’s influence.


  • Meanwhile, Greece, which also has tensions with Turkey over the eastern Mediterranean and has taken France’s side, adds to these frictions. Because of this wider incoherence within Europe, the EU has limits in its foreign policy efforts, including Operation IRINI, the EU naval mission designed to enforce the arms embargo.


  • The United States, despite a previously lackluster stance on Libya, has shown further warmth to Turkey, after Donald Trump called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 8 June to discuss Libya’s developments. The two countries discussed “some agreements” that might open a “new era,” according to Erdogan. Trump also surprised observers by calling for a ceasefire on 10th June, given Washington’s past indifference to Libya.


  • Even if external actors stopped driving Libya’s war, ongoing local grievances will prevent stability. Years of conflict and failing peace efforts have fermented distrust and tensions.


  • Although some different Turkish policy options are told by different sides such as “When it comes to the governance of Sirte and Jufra, Turkey will arguably be open to different options, rather than the GNA’s full control. Local administration of these areas or the presence of an international force could be alternatives to full control by the GNA or LNA, but the LNA’s control appears to be the main red line for Turkey.” But Turkey’s principal and final aim is the integrity of Libya under the authority of the legal government of Libya, GNA.


  • Turkey’s support to the UN-led political process and to the unity and territorial integrity of Libya. Maintaining close cooperation with the Libyan authorities, Turkey will continue assisting Libya in every field in coordination with the Government of National Accord. Turkey will also continue advocating political solution for a democratic, stable, and prosperous Libya.


The situation in Libya is as follows:


  • People do not feel safe and are constantly on the edge. Women especially feel more threatened when they go out – and kidnappings for ransom are a constant threat.


  • More than 200,000 people are internally displaced and 1.3 million need humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. Casualty numbers are highly politicized and hard to verify, with estimates ranging from 2,500 to 25,000 during the 2011 uprising alone.


  • The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates there are also about 636,000 migrants and refugees in the country, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa. Some are held in government-run detention centers and unofficial prisons run by armed groups, where conditions are horrific: detainees report unhygienic and overcrowded conditions without adequate food and water. Human rights watchdogs also say forced labor and abuse are rife. The recent escalation in fighting comes despite increased international pressure on both sides to return to negotiating a political settlement and to halt the violence over concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Libya has reported at least 65 cases of the virus, including three deaths.


  • The extremist armed group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) carried out several attacks that killed both civilians and members of the security forces.


  • Besides, Salafists are a huge danger for the society. And these kinds of illegal organizations -means terrorist groups- are a big threat to democracy. Salafists do not support Serraj, but Haftar. Saudi Salafist philosopher Usame bin Ataya el-Atibi made political propaganda over religion by claiming that “Sharia ordered all Muslims to support the Haftar” in a voice message he published.


  • As a result of the money flowing through the Gulf monarchies and the link established through the Medhali ideology, Haftar is supported by the Salafists.


  • What Haftar does to civil society is unforgettable and it should be punished. Haftar and its supporters are an illegal entity which is also not recognized by the United Nations.


  • For the integrity of the country, GNA needs to sustain its power over the country.


  • Libyans’ society is in danger due to these illegal entities’ attacks and this should be stopped immediately.


  • Besides, Libyans need electricity, water, safeness, and basic needs and the Turkish government is trying to provide these needs.



Rear Admiral (Rtd) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Cihat Yayci attended a webinar as the Director of BAU Maritime and Global Strategies Center which was held by The Institute for Islamic Strategic Affairs (IISA) and Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) on 22 July 2020. The goal of the web meeting was to assess the current and emerging dynamics of the conflict from different perspectives. Therefore, representatives from many countries attended the meeting. (UAE, Libya, Egypt, etc.)


The first question that was discussed is the current and emerging dynamics in the Libyan conflict and what would be a constructive development. Based on all these points above, Assoc. Dr. Yayci answered the question of current and emerging dynamics in Libya and what is the constructive way as follows:


“There is only one regime that the UN recognizes in Libya, and this regime is the Government of National Accord (GNA). All UN member states should recognize and support GNA as the only legitimate regime in Libya. The structure, called the Haftar or Tobruk administration, is an illegitimate de facto structure that the UN does not recognize. According to international law, all entities except GNA are illegitimate. That is why Haftar and his supporters are committing an international crime.


Unfortunately, some countries are involving this fight and they are sending ammunitions and mercenaries to support Haftar. For instance, anti-tank guided missiles, laser-guided weapons, and towed howitzers sent by the UAE and some states (even if they are few) to Haftar were captured in Libya. There are so many evidences that the UAE and some other countries continue to send the ammunitions and troops to Libya.

Moreover, Haftar is not secular. Further, Medihali Salafists support Haftar and this is another big threat to the stability in the country. In the meantime, one thing to remember is that while the GNA and its backing groups were struggling against ISIS, Haftar was not involved in this struggle and kept herself alive and even strengthened.

On the other hand, just a few weeks ago, Haftar unacceptably declared himself the president of Libya. This is essentially a dictatorship announcement. Moreover, the House of Representatives in Tobruk was disbanded, and Speaker of the Assembly, Aguila Saleh, decides on its own without consulting the remaining councilors and without the decision of the council. In other words, it is no longer possible to speak of a legitimate structure called the House of Representatives in Tobruk.


Turkey is in favor of democracy. Therefore, Turkey supports the administration which is recognized by the UN and Mr. Sarraj who is the leader of this administration against other illegal entities. There is no Turkish military unit in the conflict areas or combat zone in Libya. There are approximately 90 Turkish military personnel in Libya to provide consultancy services by agreeing on the 27 November 2019 agreement between the legitimate Libyan government and the Turkish government. As a result, the constructive solution is to support GNA which is the only legitimate government to ensure stability, peace, and security in the country. GNA should be the only authority that ensures unity, integrity, and stability in Libya.”


Another topic discussed at the meeting was protecting human lives in today’s Libya and how can we ensure the protection of human lives in any scenario. This question was responded by Yayci as follows:


It seems that the main responsible Haftar and his supporters for creating an environment where such human life is at risk. Many findings and cases support our determination. For example, the Medihali Salafists came to Libya to support Haftar. They kidnapped children and raped women. Besides, the Haftar forces bombed marketplaces and city centers, but GNA never did that. There are thousands of evidence about the attacks of Haftar. The Libyan people and legitimate Libyan administration are in danger because of the attacks of these illegal entities. These attacks must be stopped immediately. It is an international crime committed by Haftar and his supporters.


As a solution, there should be a single administration that will ensure the unity and integrity of the country, establish authority, stability, and security on the country, and this structure should be supported by all forces. This structure should be GNA which is naturally recognized by the UN. Everyone should know that Libya belongs to Libyans, no one else. Libya is not a tribe, shah, or emirate. Everyone should support democracy and human rights in Libya. We know how some countries fear the success of democracy in Libya and the wave of democracy reaching them. That’s why we understand why they are struggling with a country thousand and thousand miles away from their own countries. However, Libyans people are suffering. They need water, electricity, and basic human needs. Allies of Libya should provide the necessary support to GNA to meet these needs and to establish order.”




Sebahat Kurutaş

Suzan Seda Kalem




























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