Burweila: CBL Has No Oversight, “Like a Slush Fund for Every Criminal – A Gangster’s Paradise” – Al Marsad

Libyan expert Aya Burweila, a senior advisor at the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS), said that Turkey seeks to sabotage the peace process in Libya through its support for the advocates of Islamist terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood. She urges the US President-elect Joe Biden’s Administration not to tolerate Ankara’s aggressive actions in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean and for the US and EU to take a tough stance against it.

(Libya, 24 December 2020) – Libyan expert Aya Burweila, a senior advisor at the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS) provided a comprehensive assessment of the threat posed by Turkey to peace and stability in Libya and detailed the current issues facing the country in a webinar recently organized by the Middle East Forum titled “What Are Turkey’s Goal in Libya? Can they be Achieved?”.

THE GNA: A PROXY FOR TURKISH OCCUPATION

She stated in her presentation in no uncertain terms that the Government of National Accord (GNA) was an unratified, unelected, and expired government that did not enjoy legitimacy among the Libyan people. In the 2014 elections, the moderate and secular-leaning candidates won the overwhelming majority of seats, Islamists rejected the results, seized control of Tripoli. forcing the newly elected, internationally recognized parliament, the House of Representatives (HOR) to relocate to Tobruk in the east. In 2015, the HoR appointed General Khalifa Haftar as head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) to subdue the militias and reassert Libya’s sovereignty.

In 2015, the UN attempted to broker a resolution by establishing a Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, headed by Farraj al-Saraj. Although the GNA was never ratified by the HoR as required by the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and fell under the influence of Islamist militias backed by Turkey, Qatar, and the Muslim Brotherhood, it nonetheless became internationally recognized.

Fayez al-Sarraj with the Qatari Defence Minister, Khalid Bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah, and Turkish Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar, in Tripoli.

She added that due to the Turkish and Qatari support for the GNA, the entire country viewed it as “a huge proxy for Turkish occupation”.  She explained that Islamists captured many of the state’s institutions, creating a host of security, financial, and economic problems for Libya. “Libya was the site of one of the largest mobilizations of foreign fighters in jihadist history,” added Burweila.

“Libya was the site of one of the largest mobilizations of foreign fighters in jihadist history”.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive to fulfil the mandate to remove the militias from the capital, Tripoli and “integrate them into one national force.” Militias have held sway in Tripoli and influence and control key institutions with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood since 2011. One of the promises of the UN-approved GNA in 2015 was to dismantle the militias and provide a coherent security architecture for the capital—but in 2020 the situation remains the same with complete failure on the part of the GNA to rein in militias.

With the advance of the LNA, Turkey strengthened its support for the GNA, which prevented the country from uniting. It also poured weapons and “advisors” into Libya and deployed over a short period of time 5,000-6,000 Syrian mercenaries and militant jihadists to serve as its auxiliary army in Libya. These mercenaries were hired to fight alongside the GNA’s Islamist militias. Since their deployment in 2019, the total number of Syrian mercenaries sent to Libya by Turkey has reached almost 18,000.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL AGREEMENTS

Through maritime and military MOU agreements signed with GNA’s Fayez al-Sarraj in November 2019, Turkey seeks to gain access to Mediterranean gas reserves and establish a “hub of influence” in Africa. She highlighted that the bilateral agreements between Turkey and the GNA were unconstitutional and confirmed to be legally null and void by Libya’s parliament. She added that Qatar’s recent military cooperation agreement with the GNA was “just as illegal” as Turkey’s and contravened the 5+5 joint military agreement signed in October between the GNA and the LNA.

GNA recruits trained by Turkish forces in Tripoli.

In the symposium, Burweila, who specializes in Islamist terrorism, mentioned that Turkey seeks to plunder Libya’s wealth and aims to weaponize “human trafficking” and exploit migrants to “blackmail Europe”. Western Libya represents a major transit point for immigration to Europe.

Turkey seeks to plunder Libya’s wealth through “human trafficking”, weaponising migrants and use them to “blackmail Europe”.

EGYPT’S RED LINE HALTS TURKEY

The researcher pointed out that thanks to Egypt’s intervention and awareness that Sirte represented the real gateway to controlling the oil-rich areas of the Oil Crescent, and declaring that it was a red line for Egypt’s national security, the Turkish-backed militias were unable to make further advances since.

In another positive move, the recent ceasefire agreement which was the outcome of the 5+5 joint military agreement between GNA and the LNA, which also pledged to remove all foreign mercenaries, both Turkish and Russian, caused much consternation to Turkey. Erdogan had made his displeasure known to the media on the 5+5 agreement signed in Geneva on 23 October.

She noted that Egypt’s position which cannot tolerate any threat to its western borders was a “positive step” for the  peace process as the threats clearly halted Turkey’s expansionism, particularly after Egypt welcomed the Libyan ceasefire agreement that was reached between the GNA and the LNA, and which was supervised by the UN and praised by the international community.

TURKEY WANTS TO SABOTAGE LIBYA

Burweila urged the EU and the US to play a constructive role in Libya by fostering legitimacy through elections and counter-corruption, emphasizing that there can be “no peace without legitimacy.” She said they must stand firm against the illegal Islamist militias supported by Turkey and Qatar, and the UN Security Council must review and revise the arms embargo against Libya which has affected the national army’s ability to field a force capable of enforcing law and order. She said, “the army does not want to cooperate with mercenaries.”

Libyans need a government “chosen by them, for them—they want elections and democracy.”

She also stressed that Libyans needed a government “chosen by them, for them—they want elections and democracy.” She argued that Libyans did not choose Islamists empowered by foreign sponsors. Libya needs external guarantors to observe fair and open democratic elections. She cautioned against UNSMIL’s efforts through the Libyan Political Dialogue From (LPDF) to appoint an interim government that would merely be a “GNA 2.0”. This project, according to Burweila, would bypass legitimate elections because it contains Muslim Brotherhood members who are “advocates of terror” and have been overwhelmingly rejected by Libyans.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) opening session in Tunis.

She emphasized that the EU needed to “create mechanisms where Libyan funds are under some oversight because before, it’s been like a slush fund for every criminal —a gangster’s paradise.” Oil proceeds must be placed in bank accounts and be subject to rigorous and transparent audits.

Burweila anticipates Turkey will attempt to “sabotage the peace process,” but that it was reassuring that the international community’s tolerance for Turkish adventurism was waning. She expressed hope that the US will “take a strong stance against Turkey, which would be incredibly welcomed throughout the Arab world and throughout Europe.”

© AlMarsad English (2020)

FURTHER RESOURCES:

Turkey’s Presidency Motion to Extend Troop Deployment in Libya Seeks to Undermine 5+5 Agreement

EU Diplomats Discuss Actions Against Turkey for Provocations in Eastern Mediterranean

Pro-Turkey GNA Defense Minister Threatens to Control Entire Libyan Soil by Force

Turkey Threatens Ceasefire With Unprecedented Air Bridge and Six Turkish Warships West of Sirte