Conflict Alerts # 86, 6 May 2020
In the news
On 29 April, the Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar called for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The declaration was a response to an international call for a truce in the war-torn North African country. The announcement came after the series of setbacks faced by the eastern Libyan forces in their efforts to siege the country's capital Tripoli.
Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has rejected the truce announced by the commander citing "humanitarian cause". However, speculations remain over the deliberate move of Haftar's unilateral announcement on the ceasefire as it is believed to be a response to the requests of "friendly nations."
Issues at large
The conflict in Libya has remained torn between the Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar and the Tripoli-based government (Government of National Accord). While the Libyan National Army is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and France, the GNA is recognised by the United Nations and supported by Italy, Turkey and Qatar. Since the Tripoli offensive by the Libyan National Army in April 2019, violence in the region has escalated between these two opposing groups, and in recent days both have accused each other of shelling the civilian neighbourhood.
The United Nations, along with the European counterparts called for a humanitarian truce during the month of Ramadan which would eventually pave the way for a permanent ceasefire. The Libyan National Army spokesperson took the opportunity to announce the ceasefire saying that this would help the authorities to focus on the humanitarian crisis at hand caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains to be seen whether the ceasefire is to double the military strength of the warring parties or serve peace amid the humanitarian cause.
The supply chains from the eastern states have been cut due to the increasing dominance of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean waters. Turkey has signed an agreement with the Tripoli government that they would defend the GNA forces in exchange for gas-exploration rights in the Libyan waters. The seizures of Libyan oil terminals and blocking exports have challenged the Libyan National Army in their fight to consolidate power.
Russia, the most significant support of the Libyan National Army, is facing a severe crisis due to coronavirus and weakened their support to Haftar's Army. The highly sought after Libyan Oil is given lower prices and losing market. Thus the multiple disadvantages faced by the Libyan Army and the series of setbacks faced in the siege of Tripoli forced Haftar to declare a ceasefire in their march towards the capital city Tripoli.
Haftar's Army is unlikely to be defeated, but the pause is to strengthen its eastern allies before taking a stronger step in his road map for a populous government.
Harini Sha is a Research Intern at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). The author is pursuing a Masters in International Studies from Stella Maris College, Chennai.