Tag Archives: Libya

Amnesty says Malta using illegal tactics to pushback migrants from Libya

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Amnesty report says Malta arranged ‘unlawful pushbacks to Libya’ and diverted migrant boats to Italy.

An Amnesty International report has blamed Malta for using “ever more despicable and illegal tactics” to turn away migrants and refugees from North Africa.

In its report released on Tuesday, Amnesty said Malta has arranged “unlawful pushbacks to Libya”, diverted migrants boats to Italy and illegally detained “hundreds of people on ill-equipped” offshore quarantine ferries.

The rights group also criticised Maltese authorities for signing a new agreement with Libya to stop migrants and refugees leaving the conflict-ridden country.

“Malta is stooping to ever more despicable and illegal tactics to shirk their responsibilities to people in need,” Amnesty researcher Elisa De Pieri said.

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“Shamefully, the EU and Italy have normalised cooperation with Libya on border control, but sending people back to danger in Libya is anything but normal.”

It also said in the report “some of the actions taken by the Maltese authorities may have involved criminal acts being committed, resulting in avoidable deaths, prolonged arbitrary detention, and illegal returns to war-torn Libya”.

“The authorities also used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to declare that Malta was not a safe place to disembark – to discourage people from seeking safety and a decent life in Europe.”

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Amnesty recalled that 27 people rescued by Danish tanker Maersk Etienne on August 4 are still at sea as no disembarkation has been offered to them.

On Monday, three international organisations called on Mediterranean countries to take in the migrants, saying their situation was becoming dire.

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela has said his country is not responsible for them. However, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) accused governments of breaking international law by refusing to allow the migrants to leave the ship.

“International law and maritime conventions place clear obligations on ships and coastal States to ensure people in distress are rescued and promptly disembarked in a place of safety,” the three organisations said.

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“The Maersk Etienne fulfilled its responsibilities, but now finds itself in a diplomatic game of pass the parcel.”

In May, Malta’s Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said the country’s migration centres were holding twice the number of people they were designed for, and Malta was at the mercy of people smugglers.

Malta has taken in 2,162 sea migrants between January and August compared with 3,405 over the whole of 2019, according to IOM [File: Anne Chaon/AFP]

“We want to protect the rights of people seeking protection, but we can only do so much. We are being left alone. Words of sympathy are not enough; we need practical help,” he said referring to the EU.

Malta is the EU’s smallest member state. According to the IOM, it has taken in 2,162 migrants from the sea between January 1 and August 20, compared with 3,405 in 2019.

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Malta and Italy have long said they are disproportionately affected by Europe-bound sea migration from North Africa, and that there is insufficient burden-sharing across the European Union.

The positions of both Valletta and Rome hardened in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, amid concerns migrants could have turned into virus spreaders.

Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that migrants stuck in Libya, or forcibly returned there, are exposed to torture, exploitation and abuse.

According to Amnesty, “7,256 people were ‘pulled back’ to Libya by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard” between January and August 27, often with the help of Frontex and other EU operations


#Newsworthy

Talks hold in Morocco amongst rival Libyan administrations

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Delegates from Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and rival eastern-based parliament meet after ceasefire.

Delegates from Libya’s rival administrations met for talks in Morocco more than two weeks after the two sides announced a surprise ceasefire.

The meeting, held on Sunday at the initiative of Morocco, which hosted peace talks in 2015 that led to the creation of a United Nations-recognised government for Libya, kicked off in the coastal town of Bouznika, south of Rabat.

Dubbed “Libyan Dialogue”, the talks brought together five members of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and five from a parliament in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.

The discussions were a prelude to a major meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, on Monday and Tuesday that brings together the leaders of rival Libyan groups.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, in remarks before Sunday’s meeting got under way, said his country was offering Libyans “space” to discuss points of contention dividing them.

“The kingdom is ready to provide Libyans with a space to discuss [issues], according to their will, and will applaud them regardless of the outcome,” Bourita said.

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“Morocco has no agenda or initiative to submit” to the two sides, Bourita added.

A solution to Libya’s crisis must be decided by the Libyans themselves under the auspices of the United Nations, he said, before delegates met behind closed doors.

Beaten back
Libya has endured about 10 years of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The crisis worsened last year when renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar – who backs the Tobruk parliament and is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia – launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli from the GNA.

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Haftar was beaten back earlier this year by Turkish-backed GNA forces and fighting has now stalled around the Mediterranean city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s eastern oilfields and export terminals.

On August 22, the rival administrations announced separately they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections, drawing praise from world powers.

Peter Millett, a former British ambassador to Libya, said the rival sides talking was a good first step, but there is much work to do to achieve lasting peace.

Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s minister of foreign affairs, chairs a meeting of Libya’s rival administrations [Fadel Senna/AFP]

“First of all, it needs the buy-in of broader group of political players – tribal leaders, society leaders, municipal leaders. Secondly, it needs the buy-in from the military factions, particularly Haftar, and it has to be a genuine ceasefire,” Millett told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “Thirdly, it needs the buy-in of the entire international community.”

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‘Foreign players’
Mohamed Chtatou, a professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat, said Sunday’s talks were “historic in many ways” and likely touched on possible appointees for a future government and key positions, including head of the Central Bank of Libya, chairman of the National Oil Corporation, and the prosecutor general.

“This meeting is good for the reunification of Libya and bringing the country back on its feet,” Chtatou told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “I’m sure the foreign players are not happy about what is happening because they all have their stakes in Libya. The Libyans want peace and it’s Libyans talking to Libyans – so that is very important.”

Reporting from Tripoli, Noble Reporters Media said the fact that Haftar is not represented at the meeting does not mean he is excluded.

“In fact, the delegation representing the Tobruk-based parliament is considered in one way or another the political arm of Haftar’s forces on the ground. So the Tobruk-based parliament, which is affiliated to the warlord Khalifa Haftar, is now representing Haftar’s view in the meeting in Morocco,” he said.

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Delegates from the two sides will also meet other factions, including political parties and remnants of Gaddafi’s regime, for talks brokered by the European Union and the UN mission (UNSMIL) in Switzerland starting on Monday.

Sunday’s meeting in Morocco coincided with closed-door talks in Istanbul between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj, the Turkish presidency said.

During the meeting, Erdogan stated Turkey will “continue to stand in solidarity with Libya’s UN-recognised legitimate government, and reiterated that Turkey’s priority is to restore Libya’s stability, without further delay”, a statement said.

“Libya’s peace and stability would benefit its neighbours and the entire region, starting with Europe,” said Erdogan. “The international community ought to assume a principled stance in that regard.”

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Future settlement ‘complicated’
At a January summit in Berlin, the main countries involved in the Libyan conflict agreed to respect an arms embargo and to stop interfering in Libya’s domestic affairs.

But on Wednesday, the interim UN envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, denounced what she called “blatant” ongoing violations of the arms embargo in the North African country.

According to an interim report from UN experts, “the arms embargo remains totally ineffective” and violations are “extensive, blatant and with complete disregard for the sanctions”.

Williams said UNSMIL was also receiving reports of the “large-scale presence of foreign mercenaries and operatives” in Libya, adding this complicates chances of a future settlement.


#Newsworthy…

Shut all migrant detention centres in Libya – United Nations

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Report by Antonio Guterres says more than 2,780 people held in centres, with about one fifth of them being children.


United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for the closure of all detention centres holding refugees and migrants in Libya, condemning what he described as human rights violations committed there.

“Nothing can justify the horrendous conditions under which refugees and migrants are detained in Libya,” Guterres said in a report submitted on Thursday to the UN Security Council, according to Noble Reporters Media‘s known Agency.

“I renew my appeal to the Libyan authorities … to fulfil their obligations under international law and to close all detention centres, in close coordination with United Nations entities,” he added.

According to the secretary-general’s report, more than 2,780 people were being detained as of July 31 in centres across Libya. Twenty-two percent of the detainees were children.

“Children should never be detained, particularly when they are unaccompanied or separated from their parents,” Guterres said, calling on Libyan authorities to ensure the children are protected until “long-term solutions” are found.

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Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with warring rival administrations based in the country’s west and east battling for power.

Guterres: ‘Men and boys are routinely threatened with violence when they are calling their families, to pressure them to send ransom money’ [File: Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

As the country slid into conflict, traffickers have exploited the unrest to turn the North African country into a key route for migration towards Europe, across the Mediterranean. In the past three years, however, crossings dropped sharply due to European Union and Italian-backed efforts to disrupt trafficking networks and to increase interceptions by Libya’s coastguard.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the systematic return of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean to Libya, where they are held in crowded detention centres nominally under the control of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

“The conditions in these centres are crazy,” Alkaol, 17, a migrant from The Gambia, told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media earlier this year.

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“Sometimes you get food, sometimes you don’t. If they give you bread, you eat half and save half. You don’t know when you will eat next. If you don’t have money, your only way out is either escaping or death.

“If they catch people running away, they shoot at you. They may shoot you in the leg, they may shoot you in the head.”

Guterres also cited reports of torture, enforced disappearances, and sexual and gender-based violence in the centres, committed by those running the facilities.

He also mentioned a reported lack of food and healthcare.

“Men and boys are routinely threatened with violence when they are calling their families, to pressure them to send ransom money,” he wrote.

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“Migrants and refugees have been shot at when they attempted to escape, resulting in injuries and deaths,” the report said, alleging that some are even “left on the streets or bushes to die” when they are deemed too weak to survive.

In centres where arms and munitions are stored, some refugees and migrants are recruited by force, while others are forced to repair or reload firearms for armed groups, it said.

More than a year after a July 2019 air raid killed more than 50 refugees and migrants and wounded dozens more at a detention centre near Tripoli, no one has been forced to account for the deaths, Guterres said.

The attack followed repeated warnings about the vulnerability of people detained close to Libya’s conflict zones and raised tough questions about whether it was necessary to lock them up in the first place.


#Nnewsworthy…

Libya GNA accuses Haftar forces of disrupting eastern elections

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City elections in Misrata and those planned across western and southern Libya could help pave the way for nationwide elections.


Voters in the western Libyan city of Misrata are heading to the polls to elect municipal leaders.

Thursday’s vote in the war-torn country’s third-largest city and those planned across western and southern Libya could help pave the way for nationwide elections, but the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has accused renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces of disrupting planned polls elsewhere.

“Unfortunately in eastern Libya they are going back to individual rule and they don’t have the freedom to vote,” Mohamed Shaafe, an election trainer, said.

“Elected officials were removed from office.”

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‘Voting only solution’
A major oil producer, Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The country has since been divided into two rival camps that are based in the country’s east and west – and that in recent years have been vying for power.

The conflict escalated in April last year when Haftar, who is supported by Russian mercenaries, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, announced an offensive to wrest control of the capital from the United Nations-recognised GNA.

Backed by Turkey, the GNA in early June succeeded in repelling Haftar, driving his self-styled Libyan National Army to the coastal Mediterranean city of Sirte.

Last month, GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj offered a ceasefire and called for the demilitarisation of Sirte, a city located roughly halfway between Tripoli and Haftar’s bastion city of Benghazi.

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Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the Haftar-allied House of Representatives in Tobruk, has expressed support for the ceasefire initiative but Haftar rejected it, calling it a stunt aimed at catching the LNA off-guard.

Misrata, home to some 500,000 people, is a main source of military power for the GNA. Troops from the city played a major role in the GNA’s series of military victories that forced Haftar’s forces out of western Libya and towards the east.

“Some Libyans here say voting is the only solution to the conflict which has lasted years, but Haftar is removing elected city officials and issuing military orders to appoint their replacements,” Reporting from Misrata, Noble Reporters Media said.

“And with elections unlikely to be held in areas he controls, how and when the Libyan conflict will end remains unclear.”


#Newsworthy…

European Union seeks peace in Libya.

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The European Union’s high representative Josep Borrell held talks in Liba with the warring sides in a bid to find a solution to end the conflict.

Chaos erupted after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2014, the country has been split between the rival factions: the Tripoli based Government of National Accord (GNA) and General Khalifa Hafta, who controls the east.

Both sides are backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Fayez Sarraj, head of the GNA, announced a cease-fire on 21 August and called for demilitarising the key city of Sirte and the nearby area of Jufra, which would mean the withdrawal of forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter.

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Previous efforts to secure lasting cease-fires have stalled.

The two sides also agreed on the need of an “effective” international support to the political solution to Libya’s conflict, a statement said.

Hafter’s forces launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture Tripoli.

But his campaign collapsed in June when the Tripoli-allied militias, with heavy Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of the city and other western towns.

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The two sides also agreed on the need of an “effective” international support to the political solution to Libya’s conflict, a statement said.

But that may prove difficult with countries split on which side they support.

Turkey, Italy and Qatar are among those who side with the GNA.

Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates back General Haftar.


#Newsworthy…

United Nations in Libya urges probe after violence.

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The UN mission to Libya on Monday urged the Government of National Accord (GNA) to conduct an “immediate and thorough investigation” after violence at a protest in Tripoli a day earlier.

Hundreds gathered in the capital on Sunday evening to protest deteriorating living conditions and denounce corruption in the war-torn country, before security personnel fired into the air to disperse them, witnesses said.

“UNSMIL calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the excessive use of force by pro-GNA security personnel in Tripoli yesterday which resulted in the injury of a number of protesters,” the UN mission said in a statement, without specifying how many people were wounded.

Videos and photographs circulating on social media showed men in military attire aiming their guns towards protesters in one of the capital’s streets.

Ayman al-Wafi, a young man in his twenties who attended the protest, told AFP that demonstrators had left Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square after “security forces started firing in the air”.

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Angered by chronic water, power, and petrol shortages in a country with Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, the mostly young people had marched through the city centre chanting slogans including “No to corruption!”

Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha called those responsible for the violence “outlaws who infiltrated the security forces” supervising the protest.

The interior ministry on Sunday evening said in a statement that the men “do not belong to the security forces” and would be arrested.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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The country is plagued by water shortages and power blackouts that snuff out air-conditioners in the searing summer heat.

The situation has been compounded by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has spread in the country despite social distancing measures.

Considering “the continuing immiseration of the Libyan people and the ever-present threat of renewed conflict, it is past time for Libyan leaders to put aside their differences and engage in a fully inclusive political dialogue,” the UN mission said.

The protest came just two days after the country’s warring rival administrations announced separately that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections.


#Newsworthy…

Breaking: Turkey warns Egypt over Libya invasion

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At Istanbul meeting, Russia and Turkey agree to push for a ceasefire but Ankara says eastern commander must retreat.


Turkey and Russia agreed on Wednesday to press for a ceasefire in war-ravaged Libya, but Ankara said the leader of the eastern forces was illegitimate and must withdraw from key positions for a credible truce to take hold.

Moscow and Ankara are among the main power brokers in Libya’s conflict while supporting opposing sides. Russia backs the eastern-based forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey has helped the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) repel Haftar’s attempt to storm the capital.

“We’ve just reached an agreement with Russia to work on a credible and sustainable ceasefire in Libya,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top security adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, told Reuters news agency.

Kalin said any deal must be based on a return to what he said were the Libyan front lines in 2015, requiring Haftar’s forces to pull back from the strategic city of Sirte – gateway to Libya’s eastern oilfields – and al-Jufra, an airbase near the centre of the country.

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“For the ceasefire to be sustainable, Jufra and Sirte should be evacuated by Haftar’s forces,” Kalin said.

Battle for Sirte
Turkish-backed forces allied with the UN-recognised government in the capital are mobilising on the edges of Sirte and have vowed to retake the Mediterranean city along with the inland al-Jufra airbase.

Troops loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government on the outskirts of Misrata, Libya [Ayman Sahely/Reuters]

The United States has said Moscow sent warplanes to al-Jufra via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). Russia and the LNA both deny this.

Egypt, which also backs the LNA, has threatened to send troops into neighbouring Libya if the GNA and Turkish forces try to seize Sirte. The Egyptian parliament on Sunday gave a green light for possible military intervention.

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Kalin said any Egyptian deployment in Libya would hamper efforts to end the fighting and would be risky for Cairo. “I believe it will be a dangerous military adventure for Egypt.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said on Wednesday achieving a political solution in Libya requires a “firm” response to “extremists” and foreign interference, which “not only threaten Egypt’s interests but also the security of Mediterranean countries”.

He noted a peace proposal announced in Cairo last month aimed at stabilising Libya and eliminating armed fighters and militias in the oil-rich country.

The proposal announced by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi included a ceasefire and a new elected presidential body representing the three Libyan regions. The east Libya camp accepted the proposal, dubbed the Cairo Declaration, while the Tripoli-based administration rejected it.

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Wednesday’s joint agreement by Turkey and Russia on their ceasefire efforts included a call for measures to allow humanitarian access to those in need and efforts to promote political dialogue between the rival Libya sides.

But Kalin said Haftar had violated previous truce deals and was not a reliable partner, suggesting other figures in the east should play a role.

“We don’t take [Haftar] as a legitimate actor anyway,” he said. “But there is another parliament in Tobruk. There are other players in Benghazi. The negotiations will have to take place between them.”

The LNA has itself sent fighters and weapons to bolster its defence of Sirte, already badly battered from earlier phases of warfare and chaos since the 2011 revolution against longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

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Russia’s foreign ministry said it backs a ceasefire and political talks that would culminate in united governing authorities. Russia has received senior delegations from both sides of the Libyan conflict in Moscow and tried and failed to get Haftar to sign up to a ceasefire agreement.

‘All kinds of bullying’
Shukry’s comments came in separate phone calls with France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, according to a statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry.

Erdogan, meanwhile, chaired a high-level security meeting that focused on Libya on Wednesday.

A statement released at the end of the National Security Council meeting said Turkey would not hesitate to take all steps necessary against “all kinds of bullying” taking place in Libya.

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The council promised to “stand by the people of Libya against any tyranny”.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers have provided Haftar’s forces with critical military assistance.

Russia also sent hundreds of mercenaries through the Wagner Group, a private military company.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled Gaddafi who was later killed.


#Newsworthy…

Egypt stamps troop deployment to Libya

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Move comes as Libya gov’t and Turkey demand an end of foreign intervention in support of commander Khalifa Haftar.


Egypt’s parliament authorised the deployment of troops outside the country after the president threatened military action against Turkish-backed forces in neighbouring Libya.

The parliament unanimously approved “the deployment of members of the Egyptian armed forces on combat missions outside Egypt’s borders to defend Egyptian national security … against criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements”, it said in a statement.

The deployment would be made on a “western front” – a likely reference to western neighbour Libya. The move could bring Egypt and Turkey – which support rival sides in Libya’s chaotic proxy war – into direct confrontation.

Egypt’s House of Representatives, packed with supporters of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, approved the plan after a closed-door session on Monday.

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Libya gov’t vows response after base hit by ‘foreign air force’
Stephanie Williams, acting head of the UN support mission in Libya, on Monday called for an “immediate ceasefire … to spare the 125,000 civilians who remain in harm’s way and for an end to the blatant violations of the UN arms embargo”.

Egyptian troops could further destabilise Libya and put Turkey and Egypt in direct confrontation [File: Mohamed Abd el-Ghany/Reuters]

Her comments came following her meeting on Sunday with the president of neighbouring Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

‘Putschist Haftar’
Turkey, meanwhile, demanded an “immediate” end to the support for rebel commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya after trilateral talks held in Ankara between Libyan, Turkish, and Maltese officials on Monday.

“It is essential that all kind of help and support given to putschist Haftar – which prohibits ensuring Libya’s peace, tranquillity, security, and territorial integrity – ends immediately,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.

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Haftar’s backers should “stop supporting an unrealistic and wrong project”, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga said.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia have been backing Haftar’s eastern-based forces in the conflict, while Turkey supports the GNA.

An Egyptian intervention would further destabilise oil-rich Libya.

Egypt’s president warned in June that any attack on Sirte or the inland al-Jufra airbase would prompt Cairo to intervene militarily, purportedly to protect its western border with Libya.

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The GNA denounced Egypt’s threat of military intervention in the North African nation, labelling it a “declaration of war”.

Qatar’s state minister for defence affairs met on Monday with the Turkish defence minister and Libya’s minister of interior to discuss the latest developments in Libya, Qatar’s defence ministry said.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, centre, commander Khalifa Haftar, right, and Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh arrive for a news conference in the capital Cairo [File: Egyptian Presidency/AFP]

Regional proxy war
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.

The country is now split between a government in the east, allied with Haftar, and one in Tripoli, in the west, recognised by the United Nations.

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The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fuelled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.

The United States has grown increasingly concerned about Moscow’s growing influence in Libya, where hundreds of Russian mercenaries backed a failed attempt by Haftar’s forces to capture Tripoli.

In a call on Monday with US President Donald Trump, el-Sisi emphasised Egypt’s aim to “prevent further deterioration of security in Libya”, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidential spokesman. It said the two leaders agreed on maintaining a ceasefire and avoiding a military escalation in Libya.

Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram daily reported on Sunday the vote in Parliament was intended to mandate el-Sisi to “intervene militarily in Libya to help defend the western neighbour against Turkish aggression”.

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Last week, el-Sisi hosted dozens of tribal leaders loyal to Haftar in Cairo, where he repeated that Egypt would “not stand idly by in the face of moves that pose a direct threat to security”.

Libya’s eastern-based parliament that supports Haftar also urged el-Sisi to send troops.

GNA’s upper hand
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive to take Tripoli from the GNA in April last year, but the campaign stalemated after reaching the outskirts of the Libyan capital.

The LNA suffered a blow last month when GNA forces – with Turkish air and logistics support – pushed it back and gained the upper hand in the fighting.

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The Tripoli forces retook the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city, and a string of key towns in the region. GNA troops pushed on eastward vowing to also retake Sirte, which Haftar captured earlier this year.

Seizing the strategic city would open the door for the Turkish-backed forces to advance even further eastward and potentially take vital oil installations, terminals and fields now under Haftar’s control.

After the GNA signed security and maritime agreements with Turkey last year, Ankara’s military support – including drones – helped it re-impose control over Libya’s northwest.


#Newsworthy…

Sirte battle: Libyan fighters head for front

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The Government of National Accord says it will recapture city of Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals.


Libya’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) on Saturday moved fighters closer to Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals that the GNA says it plans to recapture from the eastern-based self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

Witnesses and GNA military commanders said a column of about 200 vehicles moved eastwards from Misrata along the Mediterranean coast towards the town of Tawergha, about a third of the way to Sirte.

The GNA recently recaptured most of the territory held by the LNA in northwest Libya, ending eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s 14-month campaign to take the capital, Tripoli, before the new front line solidified between Misrata and Sirte.

Backed by Turkey, the GNA has said it will recapture Sirte and an LNA airbase at Jufra.

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But Egypt, which backs the LNA alongside the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia, has threatened to send troops into Libya if the GNA and Turkish forces try to seize Sirte.

The United States has said Moscow has sent warplanes to Jufra via Syria to act in support of Russian mercenaries who are fighting alongside the LNA. Moscow and the LNA both deny this.

The LNA has itself sent fighters and weapons to bolster its defence of Sirte, already badly battered from earlier phases of warfare and chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising which led to the overthrow of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

EU countries threaten sanctions
Meanwhile, leaders of France, Italy and Germany said in a joint statement on Saturday they were “ready to consider” sanctions on foreign powers violating an arms embargo in Libya.

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The statement did not directly name any foreign actors funnelling arms to Libya but multiple powers have been sending fighters and weapons, fuelling a bloody proxy war that reflects wider geopolitical rifts and divisions in the Middle East and within NATO.

“We … urge all foreign actors to end their increasing interference and to fully respect the arms embargo established by the United Nations Security Council,” the statement said.

Troops loyal to Libya’s internationally-recognised government have moved closer to Sirte [File: Ayman Sahely/Reuters]

“We are ready to consider the possible use of sanctions should breaches to the embargo at sea, on land or in the air continue.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said they, therefore, “look forward to the proposals the EU High Representative/Vice President will make to this end.”

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Voicing “grave concerns” over the escalating military tensions in Libya, they urged “all Libyan parties and their foreign supporters for an immediate cessation of fighting and for a stop of the ongoing military build-up throughout the country”.

NOC urges foreign mercenaries to leave
Also on Saturday, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) called for the immediate withdrawal of foreign mercenaries from oil facilities in the country.

In a statement, the NOC condemned the deployment of Russia’s Wagner Group and Syrian and Janjaweed mercenaries in Libyan oil installations, most recently at Es Sidra port.

The NOC demands their immediate withdrawal from all facilities, it said, calling the UN to send observers to supervise the demilitarisation in the areas of NOC operations across the country.

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There are currently large numbers of foreign mercenaries in NOC facilities who do not share this wish, the statement said.

On Sunday, the NOC accused the UAE of instructing forces loyal to Haftar of disrupting the country’s oil output and exports.

Libya, with the largest oil reserves in Africa, can produce 1.2 million barrels of crude oil per day. However, production has fallen below 100,000 barrels a day due to interruptions by pro-Haftar fighters over the past six months.


#Newsworthy…

Pope Francis frowns at hell of migrant detention camps in Libya

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Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the “hellish” migrant detention camps in Libya on the seventh anniversary of his trip to Lampedusa, where many of those fleeing the country for Europe by sea land.

“The war is indeed horrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that people are living there, in that detention camp. And those people came only with hope of crossing the sea,” he said during a mass at his residence at the Vatican.

In July 2013, the newly elected Pope Francis chose the tiny Mediterranean island for his first trip outside of Rome, where he denounced the “globalisation of indifference” towards migrants.

“I remember that day, seven years ago, in the very south of Europe, on that island…,” he said.

“A number of people told me their stories and all that they had gone through to get there.

“There were interpreters present. One person was telling me about terrible things in his language, and the interpreter seemed to translate well, but this person spoke so long and the translation was brief,” he said.

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Francis later found out the translator had “given me the ‘distilled’ version.

“This is what is happening today with Libya: they are giving us a ‘distilled version’,” he said.

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

Francis regularly expresses solidarity with migrants who cross the Mediterranean and mourns those who lose their lives in the attempt.

He has repeatedly slammed the refusal of richer nations to welcome the refugees.


#Newsworthy…

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Italy’s Foreign Minister lands Libya

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Italy’s foreign minister made a lightening trip to Libya on Wednesday amid a flaring conflict between a UN-recognised government in the west and eastern-based forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Luigi Di Maio was due to meet the head of Tripoli’s Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, as well as the interior minister and his foreign affairs counterpart, Italian agencies Agi and Ansa said.

Rome considers Libya “a priority… our most important issue, which concerns our national security,” according to an unnamed ministry source, cited by the Messaggero daily.

“We can’t afford a partition of the country. That is why we went first to Ankara, a (diplomatic) channel we’ve always kept open,” the source said, referring to Di Maio’s trip to Turkey on June 19.

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He last visited Libya in January.

During his Wednesday visit Di Maio is set to examine an amended “memorandum” of cooperation between the two countries over migration, the Repubblica said.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longt-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The Arab League on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of foreign forces in Libya and urged talks on ending the conflict in the north African country.

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The Turkish-backed GNA has recently made major military gains against Haftar’s forces, who have sought to regain control over the west in an abortive attempt to seize Tripoli.

Egypt, which supports Haftar, has warned that advances by Turkey-backed forces on the strategic Libyan city of Sirte could prompt an Egyptian military intervention.

The GNA denounced Cairo’s statements as a “declaration of war”.

Besides Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia back Haftar’s forces.


#Newsworthy…

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Libya: Egypt’s threat – declaration of war – GNA says

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Egyptian president warned of ‘direct’ intervention in Libya, citing the need to protect Egypt’s porous border.


Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has denounced Egypt’s warning of military intervention in Libya, labelling it a “declaration of war”.

On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned that if pro-GNA forces advanced on the strategic city of Sirte – some 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital Tripoli – it could provoke a “direct” intervention by Cairo.

He also ordered the Egyptian army to be ready to carry out missions inside or outside of the country to protect its national security amid tensions over Turkey’s intervention in Libya.

In response, the GNA said in a statement that Egypt’s move was “a hostile act and direct interference, and amounts to a declaration of war”.

The statement comes on the eve of a virtual meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Libya, in which the GNA declined to participate.

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For the Libyan state, “interference in its internal affairs, attacks on its sovereignty, whether by declarations … like those of the Egyptian president or by support for putschists, militias and mercenaries, is unacceptable”, the GNA said.

It said it was open to “all impartial mediation … under the aegis of the UN” but rejected “unilateral or extrajudicial initiatives”.

Oil-rich Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed 2011 uprising toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2015, a power struggle has pitted the Tripoli-based GNA against renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who claims legitimacy from an eastern-based elected parliament.

Haftar has been trying unsuccessfully to seize the capital since April 2019, with support from Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Since the start of June, increased Turkish support has enabled pro-GNA forces to take control of northwest Libya, ending Haftar’s assault on Tripoli.

The GNA advance is now halted outside the coastal city of Sirte, a strategic access point to Libya’s key oil fields which remains under Haftar’s control.

Sirte and Al-Jufra to the south represent a “red line”, el-Sisi said in a television broadcast on Saturday, citing the need to protect Egypt’s porous border.

If this line is crossed, Egyptian forces will directly intervene in Libya, el-Sisi said.

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“All of Libya is a red line,” the GNA responded. “Whatever the dispute between Libyans, we will not allow our people to be insulted or threatened.”

But the speaker of Libya’s eastern-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, defended el-Sisi’s declaration, saying in a Sunday statement that the Egyptian president was “responding to our appeal to the Egyptian parliament” last January in which Saleh called for Egyptian intervention in Libya.

And on Sunday, the Jordanian foreign ministry issued a statement saying Amman supports Cairo “against any threat to the security and stability” of Egypt.

It came after the foreign ministers of both countries discussed the Libya conflict over the phone.


#Newsworthy…

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Egypt beating ‘the drums of war’ – Libya

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Abdurrahman Shater, official with UN-recognised GNA, warns Egypt to stop its intervention and backing of Khalifa Haftar.


Libya’s internationally recognised government has denounced Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s threats of military intervention, saying his comments were akin to “beating the drums of war”.

El-Sisi on Saturday warned forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli not to cross the current front line between them and forces loyal to renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, whom Cairo backs.

The Egyptian president, who visited an airbase in Matrouh near the Libyan border, alluded to the possibility of sending “external military missions if required” adding that “any direct intervention in Libya has already become legitimate internationally”.

Abdurrahman Shater, a member of the GNA-allied Libyan High Council of State, said his country’s security and democracy have been in danger since el-Sisi insisted on bringing in military troops that Libyans did not accept.

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“Take your hands off us, do not repeat the tragedy in Yemen,” he tweeted.

Shater also said Egypt has intervened in Libya’s internal affairs for four years.

El-Sisi told his army to “be prepared to carry out any mission here within our borders, or if necessary outside our borders”.

“Sirte and Jufra are a red line,” he said.

Conflict in Libya: Another initiative
Forces loyal to the GNA, which is headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, have driven Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) from large swaths of territory in the west of the country as well as strategic towns near the capital, Tripoli.

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GNA forces have now launched a campaign, moving eastwards, to capture the Mediterranean city of Sirte from forces loyal to Haftar, who was forced to offer a ceasefire after facing a string of defeats in recent weeks.

The ceasefire, backed by Cairo, has been rejected by the GNA and its backer Ankara, which on Saturday demanded that the LNA withdraw from Sirte.

The Egyptian president stressed “any direct interference from Egypt [in Libya] has now acquired international legitimacy, either with the right to self-defence or at the request of the only legitimate elected authority in Libya, which is the House of Representatives [Tobruk].”

Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina, reporting from the Libyan city of Misrata, said el-Sisi’s remarks on Saturday were largely ignored by the GNA and its forces.

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“A GNA military commander we spoke to earlier said their forces are adamant and that they will enter Sirte. It’s important to note that these are forces know the territory well,” Traina said.

“In 2011, forces primarily from Misrata were responsible for entering Sirte and killing longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.”

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday told the Saudi-based Al Arabiya TV his country prioritised a political solution to the conflict, adding that the GNA misinterpreted el-Sisi’s comments.

With Turkish support, the GNA has reversed a 14-month assault on the capital by the forces loyal to Haftar, who is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

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Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have expressed their support for the Egyptian president’s statements.

“Saudi Arabia stands by and supports Egypt on the right to protect its borders and people,” Saudi Arabia official news agency said in a statement.

Additionally, the UAE foreign ministry said it supports all actions by Egypt to ensure its stability and security.

The LNA still controls eastern and southern Libya, including most of the country’s oil facilities, and the city of Sirte, at the centre of a recent military escalation.


#Newsworthy…

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Libya reach agreement with Donald Trump

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Turkish president says there could be a ‘new era’ in the Libyan conflict following a phone call with his US counterpart.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “some agreements” have been reached with his US counterpart Donald Trump that could herald a “new era” in the conflict in Libya.

Turkey supports the internationally recognised government of Fayez al-Sarraj, whose forces have in recent weeks driven back an assault on the capital, Tripoli, by the forces of renegade commander Khalifa Haftar.

While the US officially supports Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), Haftar is supported by Washington’s allies – Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, and Saudi Arabia – as well as Russia.

“After our call this evening, there could be a new era between the US and Turkey regarding the (Libya) process,” Erdogan told state broadcaster TRT on Monday.

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“We reached some agreements during our call”, he said, and alluded to a “possible step” the two countries could take together, but offered no details.

A White House statement said Trump and Erdogan discussed the war in the North African country, as well as Syria and the wider eastern Mediterranean region, but gave no details.

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Turkey’s support for the GNA has helped shift the balance in the country, leading the Tripoli-based forces to score a string of military victories in the country’s west and around Tripoli, inflicting a heavy blow to Haftar’s year-long campaign to capture the capital.

Last week, GNA forces also recaptured Tripoli’s airport, gaining the upper hand against Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the country’s east – the seat of the rival administration.

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On Monday, the GNA’s forces launched offensive to seize the strategic city of Sirte, as it rejected a unilateral ceasefire proposed over the weekend by Egypt, a Haftar ally.

Oilfield targeted
Egypt had called for a ceasefire starting Monday, as part of an initiative which also proposed an elected leadership council for Libya. Haftar’s other supporters, Russia and the UAE, welcomed the proposal.

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But Erdogan, whose support for the GNA’s forces helped change the course of the war, said the GNA would continue fighting to seize the coastal city of Sirte and the Jufra airbase further south in a strategic region of the oil-exporting country.

“Now the goal is to take over the whole Sirte area and get it done. These are areas with the oil wells, these are of great importance,” the Turkish president said.

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Erdogan said he would also discuss Moscow’s role in Libya with President Vladimir Putin, including what he said was the supply of Russian planes and Pantsir air defences to Haftar’s forces.

“They have Pantsirs there, they sent 19 warplanes to Libya,” Erdogan said. “After talking with him, we can plan ahead.”

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Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said an “armed force” had entered the Sharara oilfield and told employees to shut the oilfield, hours after maintenance operations started.

Reporting from Tripoli, NRM noted that the facility is the country’s largest oilfield with a production capacity of 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

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“It’s a major loss for the country and for the NOC,” said Abdelwahed. “An armed group stormed the facility and pulled weapons on the workers there and forced them to shut down production just three days after it resumed. The group is affiliated to Haftar.”

Brigadier Mohammed Khalifa, commander of the oil facilities guard force in the country’s south, which answers to Haftar, requested the operations at the Sharara oilfield, about 900km (560 miles) south of Tripoli, to be halted.

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NOC said it instructed employees to reject “any military orders” regarding the operating and the maintenance of the field. However, two engineers at the field said they already halted operations, and the field was re-closed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.

The Libyan oil company said it again invoked force majeure, a contract clause that frees a party from liability whenever an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond its control takes place.

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The Hamada pipeline running from Libya’s Sharara oilfield had just been reopened on Sunday, the Petroleum Facilities Guards said after it closed during a blockade on oil exports.

Production resumed following negotiations with the tribes to end its closure, in place since January. Production also resumed on Monday in the al-Feel oil field.

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Sharara was to restart at a capacity of 30,000 barrels a day, with an expected return to full capacity within three months.

Oil, the lifeline of Libya’s economy, has long been a key factor in the civil war, as rival authorities jostle for control of oil fields and state revenue. Libya has the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world and the biggest oil reserves in Africa.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Fighters fly out of Libya amid Haftar retreat

‘A very meaningful event’ because LNA deprived of its most effective foreign fighting force near Tripoli, analyst says.


Russian fighters in Libya were flown out a town south of Tripoli by their Libyan allies after retreating from front lines at the capital, the town’s mayor said.

The reported departure of the Russians on Sunday was another blow to the Libya National Army (LNA) of eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar and his foreign allies.

The Russian fighters allied to the LNA retreated with their heavy equipment from the capital to the airport of Bani Walid, a town some 150km (93 miles) southeast of Tripoli, said Salem Alaywan, Bani Walid’s mayor.

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He said the Russians were flown out of western Libya to Jufra, a remote central district and LNA stronghold.

“They [the Russians] were flown in three military planes to Jufra and their military vehicles were driven there,” he said.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied any foreigners were fighting with his force.

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1,200 mercenaries
But the Russians’ presence has been widely documented by diplomats and journalists. Pictures purportedly showing Russians, some sitting on trucks, in Bani Walid were posted on social media.

According to a leaked United Nations report, Russian private military contractor Wagner Group deployed about 1,200 mercenaries to Libya to strengthen Haftar’s forces. They have been identified using equipment typically reserved for Russia’s armed forces.

UN monitors identified more than two dozen flights between Russia and eastern Libya from August 2018 to August 2019 by civilian aircraft “strongly linked to or owned by” Wagner Group or related companies.

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NobleReporters, gathered from Tripoli, said Haftar’s immediate gains in the assault on the capital a year ago have been attributed to the fighting prowess of the military contractors from the Wagner Group.

“We don’t know why they’re leaving at this crucial time because Haftar is losing on the ground. The withdrawal of the Russian [fighters] could have major consequences for Haftar’s forces,” he said.

‘Meaningful event’
The Tripoli government, known as the GNA, has with Turkish help made sudden strides, seizing a string of towns from the LNA, capturing the strategically important al-Watiya airbase, and destroying several Russian-made air defence systems.

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“The withdrawal [of the Russians] from the greater Tripoli area is a very meaningful event because it deprives the LNA of its most effective, best-equipped foreign fighting forces on that key front,” said Jalel Harchaoui, research fellow at the Clingendael Institute.

The GNA has deployed Syrian fighters allied to Turkey, while Haftar is also using Sudanese. The LNA still holds the town of Tarhouna south of Tripoli with the help of a local armed group.

Haftar’s forces, backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have been trying to capture the capital for 13 months, but suffered a string of defeats in recent weeks in fighting against Turkey-backed forces of the Tripoli government.

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In the past two days, LNA forces have withdrawn from some positions in southern Tripoli in what they described as a humanitarian gesture. Forces allied to the internationally recognised government re-entered some of those areas.

Libya has been without central government control for nine years, and since 2014 it has been divided between two main rival governments in the east and the west. The conflict has turned into a proxy war between the foreign allies of the two sides.


#Newsworthy…

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Libyan alligned GNA forces retakes camp close to Tripoli

Military spokesman says forces loyal to UN-recognised gov’t stormed LNA-controlled camps Yarmouk, Sawarikh and Hamza.


Forces aligned with Libya’s internationally recognised government have retaken three military bases from eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) south of the capital Tripoli.

In a statement on Saturday, military spokesman Mohamed Gnunu said troops loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) overran the Yarmouk, al-Sawarikh and Hamza camps.

“Our heroic forces are chasing the remnants of Haftar’s terrorist militia and are continuing their progress,” Gnunu said on his Twitter account, without elaborating.

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With Turkish help, the GNA has seized a string of towns in recent weeks, captured a strategic airbase, and destroyed several of the LNA’s Russian-made air defence systems.

In a two-minute audio speech addressed to his forces on Saturday, Haftar said they “will fight and fight” against what he called “Turkish colonialism”.

“To our brave officers and soldiers, you are fighting a holy war that is open to all fronts, a comprehensive war in which there is nothing but victory,” Haftar said in the speech.

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Reporting from Tripoli, NobleReporters gathered that the GNA’s gains were a major setback for Haftar.

“Al-Yarmouk military camp had been set by the LNA as some kind of central command to run the battles in southern Tripoli,” he said.

“The base was controlled by Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group … The government has told displaced civilians not to return to their homes because LNA forces have set up land mines in civilian areas in the same way ISIL set up IEDs in the city of Sirte in 2016.”

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Saturday’s announcement comes days after Ahmad al-Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, said his fighters would pull back from some positions south of Tripoli.

The withdrawal, he said, was part of a “redeployment”.

Making gains
Fighting has recently escalated between Libya’s warring sides despite international calls for a humanitarian truce in the country to focus efforts on battling an outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Earlier this week, GNA forces seized al-Watiya airbase, near theTunisian border, a strategic base in Haftar’s offensive to capture Tripoli.

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US President Donald Trump called for a “rapid de-escalation” of the Libyan conflict on a call with Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday.

The GNA’s surge has put pressure Haftar’s 13-month campaign to seize the capital Tripoli and has squeezed his foreign backers Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement: “President Trump reiterated concern over worsening foreign interference in Libya and the need for rapid de-escalation.”

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As the LNA has promised to respond with a massive air campaign, diplomats have warned of the risk of a new round of escalation with the warring sides’ external backers pouring in new weaponry.

Turkey “will not bow to threats by Haftar or anyone else”, Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said separately in an interview on NTV.

“The international community must take a stand against Haftar. We need to go back to the table for a political solution as soon as possible,” Kalin said.

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‘Bringing chaos’
The year-long battle for Tripoli has left hundreds dead, including dozens of civilians, and displaced more than 200,000 people.

Since 2014, Libya has been split between rival factions based in Tripoli and in the east, in a sometimes chaotic war that has drawn in outside powers and a flood of foreign arms and mercenaries.

Haftar’s LNA has been unable to make significant progress since early on in its campaign.

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But it still controls eastern and southern Libya, including most of the country’s oil facilities, and the city of Sirte, at the centre of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.

Turkey, which has had frayed ties with the UAE and Egypt for years, has accused Abu Dhabi of bringing chaos to the region through its interventions in Libya and Yemen, and has called on Russia to halt its support for Haftar.


#Newsworthy…

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