Saturday June 13, 2020
As warlord Khalifa Haftar’s power wanes in Libya, the Arab League shifts towards recognising the country’s legitimate government in Tripoli.
In an interview on Egyptian television, the assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, Hossam Zaki, publicly stated that the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) is the legitimate authority in Libya.
While recognised by the UN and most of the international community as the sole representative of Libya, the Arab League in the past has been less eager to publicly support the Tripoli government.
Zaki said that the GNA is the "accredited government for the Arab League, the African Union and the United Nations."Historically, the Arab League has often sided with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in shielding the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar whose ultimate aim is to overthrow the GNA.
Some are describing the move as a “shift” in the stance of the organisation which comes in light of a string of setbacks for Haftar’s forces.
Zaki also seems to have re-affirmed that a deal between the GNA and Turkey, which has reinforced Libya’s security architecture and established maritime boundaries between the two, is legitimate.
The head of the GNA, Fayez Al Sarraj, has in the past criticised the Arab League for its lack of support for the government.
In February of this year, as Haftar’s militias moved to overthrow the government in Tripoli, and as the GNA fended the would-be warlord with Turkish backing, Sarraj said he was “pained” by the stance of the Pan-Arab grouping.
“We have been pained by the position of the Arab League, which has been unable to hold a meeting at the delegate level to discuss the aggression launched against an Arab capital, and we protest against that, while (the Arab League) rushed to hold sessions on issues less severe and important than the Libyan crisis,” said Sarraj.
In January of this year, the Arab League condemned "foreign interference" in Libya in a statement that was seen by many aimed at Turkey - a nation that supports the GNA.
At the time, the government rejected the statement issued by the Arab League. Instead, it highlighted that the organisation had yet to issue any statement against the UAE’s illegal drone strikes in the country that have caused countless civilian casualties.
While Haftar is being supported by Saudi Arabia, France, Russia and the UAE, the GNA can count on being backed largely by Turkey and Italy.
Ankara’s support for Libya's UN-recognised GNA in Tripoli, has helped shift the balance in the country, allowing the Tripoli-based forces to retake the capital's airport and gain the upper hand against the warlord Khalifa Haftar.
In a statement recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We foiled Haftar's invasion plan in Libya."
The Skhirat Agreement was signed in December 2015 in the Moroccan city of the same name. It resulted in a political deal for a unified government in Libya with Fayez al Sarraj as prime minister. Haftar, however, has not abided by the agreement.
The internationally-recognised GNA has been under attack by Haftar's militias since April 2019.
The GNA launched Operation Peace Storm in March to counter attacks on the capital and recently regained control of strategic locations, including Al-Watiya airbase, and the city of Tarhuna.