While the organisation has strongly condemned Turkey’s protection of its regional interests, it has done little to back the legitimate UN-recognised government.
On Tuesday the Arab League called on its members to help prevent foreign interference in Libya following Turkey’s signing of a maritime agreement with the UN-recognised legitimate government and its pledge to use military force, if necessary, to protect the Tripoli government.
Ankara’s position of supporting the legitimate stands in opposition to the posture of several members of the organisation, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
This trio have backed the warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is waging a campaign to seize power off the legitimate government in Tripoli, plunging the country into a protracted civil war.
At Egypt’s request, permanent representatives of the organisation passed a resolution Tuesday, which stressed the “necessity to prevent interference that could contribute to facilitating the arrival of foreign extremists in Libya".
The league stopped short of Egypt’s desire to see a statement issued condemning the legitimate government of Libya and Turkey’s recent deal.
Cairo has attempted to get the Arab League to withdraw its recognition of the UN-recognised government but it has not succeeded in doing so.
In the eyes of critics, it appears that the primary duty of the league has been to focus on Turkey’s foreign policy, rather than the resolution to the many issues plaguing Arab citizens, such as crippling poverty and political instability.
Another example of this focus was the league’s condemnation of Ankara’s operation against PKK-affiliated YPG terrorists beyond its southern border with Syria.
Activists have denounced the league’s rush to condemn Turkey for working with the legitimate Libyan government while doing little to address the deteriorating situation for Palestinians, Syrians in Idlib, and Yemenis.
Even Libya’s delegate to the league, Saleh Shammakhi, on Tuesday accused the Arab League of ‘double standards’ when it came to the conflict tearing his country apart.
Why wasn’t this question being asked when Russia, UAE, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and France were killing Libyans IN LIBYA? Was that not ‘international’ enough? These countries overwhelmed the local brave Libyan heroes, unsurprisingly. But no, they are not allowed to seek help. https://t.co/7pj3qFPhSu— Ahmed Sewehli (@LibyanIntegrity) December 30, 2019
While the league expressed “serious concern over the military escalation further aggravating the situation in Libya”, Shammakhi’s request for condemnation of Haftar’s assault on Tripoli was not acted upon.
In a tweet, the Libyan delegate at the Arab League said: “Where was the Arab League when we warned against the presence of Russian mercenaries and Sudanese Janjaweed and others in Libya?”
The criticism is not just from politicians. Following the meeting, a hashtag that read "The Arab League does not represent us" began trending on social media.
The Arab League is the extension of Egypt's foreign ministry. the real message should read dictator Gl. Sissi wishes free hand in Libya and stops Benghazi's legitimate Gov. from seeking Turkey's help. Egypte, UAE, KSA are Gl Haftar backers. Try another trick. https://t.co/ihaCikDYkb— Nadir-Dziri (@dziri_nadir) January 1, 2020
Many criticised Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia over there influence over the league’s decision to effectively stand with warlord Haftar rather than the officially recognised government.
Activist Ibrahim Kassouda said: "The Arab League has always been an instrument of oppression and fraud in the name of Arabism. It has always defended the regimes and was never the voice of Arab people.”
A conflict of interest
Officials from the legitimate Libyan government emphasised that the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, are in no position to talk about de-escalating the conflict, as they are actively involved in the war.
While the organisation is on paper committed to bringing about a political solution, it has in practice emboldened one side to the detriment of the other.
The organisation’s silence on the Haftar issue is very indicative in this regard.
On Twitter, commentator Najla al Bahloul asked: “Where were the Arabs when Haftar began bombing Tripoli, Al Zawia and Misrata?”
While loud on Turkish relations with the legitimate representatives of the Libyan government, the league has been quiet on reports Israeli agents are working with Haftar to train its militia, in exchange for oil.
With so many inconsistencies in the way it conducts itself in Libya, it will be increasingly difficult for the Libyan people and international governments to take the Arab League seriously.