Mohammad Salih Alzawahreh

2. International interests and interventions in Libya

2.1 The most prominent international interests and interventions in Libya

The presence of international powers in the Libyan scene has expanded, with different goals and reasons behind their involvement. These positions, visions, and interests between major and regional states on the Libyan file fall into categories such as ensuring economic benefit, addressing national security concerns, controlling borders and stopping the flow of migrants, and ensuring the continuation of oil exports.

These interests have determined the position of each country in supporting the parties to the conflict in Libya, with some working to control oil fields and exploit the market, while others focus on securing contracts and deals or addressing their own national security concerns.

2.1.1 Turkish intervention.

The Turkish intervention in Libya was driven by a variety of factors, including political and economic considerations. Turkey supported the internationally recognized Libyan Government of National Accord and had been seeking to establish a foothold in North Africa.

While some saw Turkey’s actions as motivated by a desire to acquire oil, the country’s broader foreign policy goals also played a role. Ankara aimed to confront the influence of its opponents and to establish a stable relationship with Europe through various means of influence.

The Turkish intervention was also seen as an attempt to counter the existing alliance in the eastern Mediterranean between Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. The signing of a memorandum of understanding with Fayez Al-Sarraj, representing the Government of National Accord, marked the beginning of Turkey’s involvement in the Libyan conflict.

2.1.2 French intervention

French military support for Haftar began “secretly in Benghazi, early in 2015, with what some considered to be contrary to the liberal democratic values of Paris. This was as part of an expanded strategy for France to develop military alliances in other parts of Africa to secure the coast and French interests in the African continent.

There was an opinion within government circles in France that the solutions of the strongman in countries – where there were French interests- were the only way to confront Islamic extremism and mass immigration.

Secret French support for Haftar included weapons, training, intelligence and some of the special forces. This secret support witnessed the death of three secret French soldiers in a helicopter crash in Libya, which was shared with Haftar’s forces. France had announced after the fall of Gaddafi that it was fair and logical for French companies to benefit from Libyan oil, after leading the coalition that toppled the former president.

This was the reason for its adoption of a policy based on secret military and political support for Haftar’s forces, while at the same time keen on communicating with the Libyan National Oil Corporation, which was located in Tripoli, which held the official status in the process of selling oil and concluding agreements.

2.1.3 Italian intervention

Italy has had a long-standing interest in Libya as a former colony and a crucial source of natural resources. Its foreign policy has focused on maintaining a presence in the country since the outbreak of the conflict, through agreements with the Sarraj government and leading the European operation IRINI in the Mediterranean to monitor arms shipments.

Libya is also a key supplier of natural gas and crude oil to Italy, with the Italian company Eni being the largest foreign producer of hydrocarbons in the country.1 In terms of security, Italy supports the Sarraj government based on the belief that Haftar is unable to win the loyalty of southern tribes and northwest factions.

The Libyan issue is also a politically significant one within Italy, as successive governments have tried to link their influence in Libya to preventing the influx of migrants. Italy has also worked to train and equip the Libyan Coast Guard to keep migrants inside the country.

The issue of migration through the sea route between Libya and Italy has been a major motivation for Rome in strengthening ties with the Libyan Government of National Accord, resulting in an agreement to help the Libyan maritime authorities stop boats and return people to detention centers.

2.1.4 Egyptian intervention

The stations during which Egypt moved in its interaction with the Libyan crisis were linked to various goals on which Cairo built its policy.

  • The first step for the Egyptian role was to engage in the struggle to preserve Cairo’s influence and secure the country’s borders in the future in light of any possible scenario that might occur with its western neighbor.
  • This was the main task of those responsible for managing the file headed by Mahmoud Hegazy, Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army at the time, without the concern of “the complete eradication of Islamists in Libya” over Egypt at that time, and this is confirmed by the support of Islamic factions in Libya, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, for Cairo’s efforts to settle the conflict, and for the sake of this task, Cairo went on to hold political talks with heads of state such as Algeria and Tunisia, which at that time resulted in the convening of a tripartite summit between the three presidents.
  • The second leg of the Egyptian role was the launch of an open support strategy for Haftar, driven by an Emirati desire to unify the material and military support for the military general’s forces. After the Turkish military intervention in Libya, Egypt’s goals changed from being satisfied with being a station to support Haftar, to trying to build a new alliance at the regional level on Libya, facing Turkish influence, through a new political alliance inside Libya.

The most prominent indication of this Egyptian transformation was Cairo’s call for Italy, France, Cyprus and Greece one day after Erdogan sent military equipment to support the Sarraj government, to discuss the issue of forming an international coalition inside Libya.

Egypt’s interests in the Libyan interior also had an economic aspect, represented in the possibility of exporting gas to Europe via a pipeline extending from Egypt to the Libyan fields operated by (Eni), and linking the Libyan offshore fields with a marine gas pipeline to Italy, which explained the escalation of the Egyptian discourse after the approach of Sarraj government forces from the city of Sirte, which was important in the Libyan oil industry.

2.1.5 Russian intervention

Libya fell within Moscow’s circle of interest in the context of the Kremlin’s strategy for the return of Russian influence in general to the Middle East. Libya enjoyed great specialty in the Russian strategy, in light of its previous alliance with General Muammar Gaddafi, before the Russian influence receded after his fall with the military intervention of NATO; Moscow failed to protect the $10 billion contracts it had signed with the Gaddafi regime.

After the failure of the initiatives to unify Libya, Moscow insisted on resuming a greater role inside Libya, as it saw in General Khalifa Haftar a partner that could be relied upon to promote Russian interests. Russia supported Haftar with forces and weapons despite the imposed international embargo, and at the same time, it presented itself as a mediator who sponsors the initiatives.

The military presence in Libya represented an opportunity for Russia to obtain a military base near the Libyan coast, which ensured the strengthening of Russia’s influence in the Mediterranean and allowed the Russian army to be present at a closer distance from Europe and the American bases in Sicily.

In the face of Russia’s political and military support for Khalifa Haftar, Russia’s influential card in Libya, Moscow had succeeded in strengthening its presence as an influential and international actor and achieving some economic gains. Haftar made it easier for Moscow to enter the Libyan energy market and use the Mediterranean ports in Tobruk and Derna.

2.1.6 Algeria and Tunisia intervention

The two countries bordering Libya’s Western borders played the role of mediator in the Libyan crisis, without being involved through military support for any of the parties to the conflict. But they supported the Libyan Government of National Accord politically, and succeeded in imposing their presence as mediators, in light of the election of two new presidents for the two countries, and their ties were politically strengthened.

On the other hand, the economic gains for both countries were dwindling from engaging as mediators, as the benefit was limited only to the Algerian petroleum company “Sonatrach” owning a concession contract to fill oil near the Algerian-Libyan border, but the most important gain from this engagement for the Algerian and Tunisian presidents was to strengthen their presence and revitalize their countries’ diplomacy far from the stagnation that hit them in the past years.

These efforts culminated quickly, as the foreign ministers of influential countries inside Libya raced to visit Algeria and meet with president Tebboune or his officials in search of coordination with them.


Mohammad Salih Alzawahreh – M.A of conflict resolution – University of Jordan


Source: Journal of Political Science and Law – Issue # 35 – March 2023 – The Democratic Arabic Center

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