The international community is divided with some supporting the UN-backed government and others backing the warlord Khalifa Haftar.
The warlord Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Libya's capital Tripoli last April, against the UN-backed and internationally-recognised government, has drawn in regional and global players from Russia, the US and Italy to France and Saudi Arabia.
Within this context, this is a look at where the international community stands in Libya:
Since the inception of the UN-backed Government of National Accord in 2015, Turkey has been supporting the internationally recognised government. Following a request by the GNA, Turkey proceeded to diplomatically and militarily support the government in Tripoli.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the objective of the deployment was "not to fight" but "to support the legitimate government and avoid a humanitarian tragedy."
With Turkey’s support to the GNA, the warlord's militias have been pushed back from Tripoli, losing swathes of territory during its retreat.
In late 2015, the US was among those that led efforts to help create the GNA, a political agreement unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council. However, following US President Donald Trump’s presidency in January 2017, the US increasingly stepped back from playing an active role in Libya.
Once Haftar started his offensive on Tripoli in April 2019, the US seemed to have shifted their position in support of Haftar by saying he had a “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources" following a phone conversation between President Trump and the warlord.
Haftar is a US citizen and was once a CIA asset.
In addition, the US was quick to block a UNSC statement condemning an air raid on a migrant detention center in which more than 40 people were killed, and which the GNA blamed on the UAE. Many argue that Trump's attempt to change the US position was a result of lobbying by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The United States officially supports the GNA but has not offered military support in its battle against Haftar. Primary US concerns in the region are counter terrorism and Russian expansion, and Washington has conducted joint air strikes with the GNA against Libya’s religious extremist groups.
Last month, the US reiterated an urgent need to end the "destabilizing flow of Russian and other foreign military equipment and mercenaries into Libya." Russia supports Haftar and this was seen as a return to official US policy.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE has been one of the main supporters and sponsors of Haftar and his militias. Abu Dhabi has supplied Haftar with advanced weaponry systems in violation of the UN arms embargo.
Haftar’s militias rely heavily on Emirati air support which includes the alleged deployment of Chinese-made drones, Wing Loong II, used during attacks on the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
A UN report revealed that the UAE supplied Haftar with the Russian-made advanced air defence systems, Pantsir S-1s, which were installed at the al-Jufra base near the town of Gharyan.
Another UN report in 2017 said that the Gulf country was behind the construction of an airbase in eastern Libya and provided Haftar with aircraft as well as military vehicles.
Reports in April 2020 emerged that UAE-based companies shipped 11,000 tonnes of jet fuel to Haftar - a repeat violation of the international arms embargo. The shipment is under investigation by the UN and is believed to have had a market value of $5 million at the time it was loaded in the UAE and was delivered last month to eastern Libya, Haftar’s headquarters.
On the one hand, Russia has openly supported the UN’s mediation efforts led by Special Envoy Ghassan Salame, and on the other hand, the country blocked a UN Security Council statement which looked to call on Haftar to halt his advance on Tripoli and the UN-backed government.
US Africa Command states that as many as two thousand mercenaries belonging to the infamous Russia-based Wagner Group were believed to be sent to Libya. According to several reports, the Wagner Group is closely linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia is seeking to secure oil and construction deals in Libya, which "possesses the largest oil reserves and fourth-largest natural gas reserves on the continent." Despite Moscow’s repeated denials that they operate in Libya, evidence emerged that the country sent more than a dozen fighter jets to support Haftar.
Despite Paris officially backing efforts for a peaceful solution in Libya, according to French newspaper Le Monde, France has gone out of its way to ensure that the Libyan warlord is fully armed, even deploying French special forces for the training of his militias.
Although France has feigned ignorance when it comes to supplying weapons and offering logistical support to Haftar's forces, its active involvement in the conflict dates back to 2015. It was at this time that Haftar emerged as a force in the conflict.
Much to the shock and embarrassment of the Macron administration, Paris's position on Libya was revealed in 2016 when three undercover French soldiers died in a helicopter crash in Benghazi.
Since the event, France has time and again come under international scrutiny over its role in Libya's civil war. For one, it has violated the UN arms embargo on several occasions.
In July 2019, a Pentagon investigation concluded that Paris had supplied American-made anti-tank missiles to Haftar's forces. Each missile is worth $170,000 and the US only sells it to "close allies," such as France.
GNA Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj in April accused the Macron administration of backing a "dictator."
Rome has remained more or less neutral throughout the conflict raging across the Mediterranean. The country advocates for a comprehensive peace process that would include all walks of Libyan society.
Italy in April warned France against supporting any of the parties in Libya for economic and commercial benefits following Paris’s blocking the EU's call for restraint. In recent months, Italy has reiterated its support for the UN-backed GNA.
Italy’s support to the GNA included “backing the outcomes of the Berlin Conference on Libya, imposing arms embargo on the Libyan National Army (LNA), establishing a ceasefire between the two Libyan factions, and putting effective mechanisms to prevent any violations.”
Along with the UAE, Riyadh is also considered a Haftar backer. The Wall Street Journal revealed that during Haftar’s assault on the UN-backed government, Saudi Arabia was quick to offer millions of dollars of help to fund the warlord’s offensive.
According to the report, that offer came after Haftar’s visit to Saudi Arabia in late March 2019, a month before the warlord’s offensive on Tripoli. Haftar accepted the help and used the money to buy tribal loyalty, for recruitment and to pay fighters and other military expenditures.
Egypt's leader Abdel Fattah el Sisi came into the power in 2013 by toppling the first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi in a military coup. Haftar’s endorsement by the UAE and Saudi Arabia has been followed by Egypt - with the country now going so far as to threaten to intervene militarily in Libya.
Cairo has used its long border with Libya to provide both logistical and weaponry support to Haftar according to Al Jazeera.
Recently, the Egyptian dictator argued that Cairo has a legitimate right to intervene in Libya and support Haftar’s militia. This comes after the warlord’s forces have faced heavy losses against the UN-backed government forces over the last few months.