Can Trump Collaborate with Erdogan to Achieve Peace in Libya?

An end could be in sight for the civil war in Libya as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said that “some agreements” have been reached with his US counterpart Donald Trump. According to Erdogan, these developments could herald a “new era” in Libya. Both the US and Turkish Presidents did not provide any details about what their agreements entail, but it shows that Washington can still play a positive role in international affairs as its reputation for intervening in the Middle East has been damaged in recent decades. Either way, both Turkey and the US are likely to strengthen their cooperation in Libya in the foreseeable future.

In a further boost to the Libyan peace process, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed on Monday that it is vital for both their nations to create the necessary conditions for peace through collaboration.

More Countries are Supporting Peace

The two foreign ministers also agreed that a new United Nations envoy must be appointed quickly.

Furthermore, Erdogan hinted that he would discuss Russia’s role in Libya with President Vladimir Putin, including the supply of Russian planes and Pantsir air defenses to Haftar’s forces.

Egypt had called for a ceasefire on Monday, as part of an initiative that proposed an elected leadership council for Tripoli. Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who also support the Libyan National Army (LNA) under General Khalifa Haftar’s leadership also welcomed the idea.

Although all the participants in the Libyan conflict appear to be preparing for peace, Putin is not reducing his support for Haftar. The LNA lost al Watiya on May 18, and then they retreated from Tripoli when the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) drove them out of the capital. This triggered the arrival of Russian combat aircraft in eastern Libya.

The GNA is the Lesser of Two Evils

That is why Trump’s intervention in Libya is welcome at this time. Haftar is a threat to American interests and he is not the hero that he claims to be. As Frederic Wehrey and 

With the Turks and the Russians both pursuing their own interests in Libya, America has an opportunity to act as an honest broker between both sides.

US Intervention Can Make a Difference

The US has a track record of helping the GNA. In the summer of 2018, when Haftar’s forces seized oil reserves in central Libya, both American diplomats and the UN envoy prevented these resources from falling into the LNA’s hands.

But America should have also issued sanctions against Haftar sooner. They only threatened to do so in March, but considering other Libyan militia leaders have had similar measures imposed on them, so should the LNA. Haftar has violated many UN Security Council resolutions and that is why both US and UN sanctions apply to him.

The Libyan peace process would also be more legitimate with participation from the Libyan people, too. As Thomas M. Hill of the U.S. Institute of Peace argues, the peace agreement negotiated in Morocco in 2015 was viewed as illegitimate because it was negotiated by political elites who failed to consult their own constituents.

The Libyan People Should be More Involved

Many Libyans have also mediated between tribes to prevent conflict and to generate opportunities for shared economic growth in the southern city of Ubari. They have also collaborated to solve problems like the indiscriminate use of celebratory gunfire in the city of Sebha.

Therefore, the US still has a part to play in Libya, even if it means working with the GNA and Erdogan, because the alternative under the Russian-backed LNA is much worse. But the time has also come for the Libyan people to participate more actively in the peace process.