Germany warned of Libya becoming a “second Syria” as EU leaders met the head of the North African country’s Government of National Accord (GNA) yesterday. The warning came from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who told reporters that, “We want to prevent Libya from becoming the scene of a proxy war or a second Syria.”
Maas’s comments came as Fayez Al-Sarraj, who leads the GNA, met with the EU’s Council President Charles Michel and EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell, who also warned that the country is facing a “watershed point” due to the conflict there.
Since the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been subject to two rival governments within the country: the GNA which controls most of the west including the key city of Tripoli, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls the east and is led by the formerly-exiled Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Throughout the ongoing Libyan civil war, Turkey – along with the UN – has backed and assisted the GNA militarily against Haftar’s forces.
Both Borrell’s and Maas’s warnings come as Haftar’s forces continue to advance into GNA territory. Haftar wants to take the capital and depose the UN-recognised government.
In order to resolve the conflict in the war-torn country, the EU has pledged to “step up efforts towards a peaceful and political solution,” expressing hopes that the UN-sponsored talks in the planned Berlin process will be able to do this.
Turkey, however, has different plans for stabilising Libya and helping Sarraj against Haftar’s forces, which greatly concerns the EU and other actors in the region. In recent months, the government in Ankara has taken steps to increase ties and military support for the GNA by signing pacts on military cooperation and maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Relations have reached such a point that Turkey has offered direct military support through the deployment of troops to the country in order to push back Haftar’s advance, which the GNA has called for and accepted.
Following its commitment to help the GNA, Turkey has reportedly already sent 35 soldiers to Libya in order to conduct training and coordination tasks for GNA forces, insisting that they are not taking part in any direct fighting.