By Vanessa Tomassini, Investigative Journalist
The Libyan conflict continues unabated after the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by Turkey, refused any ceasefire agreement despite numerous appeals from the International Community for a truce. After withdrawing from western Libya to protect civilians from out of control militia fire, the Libyan National Army (LNA) sent Saturday military reinforcements from the cities of Benghazi and Marj to Sirte, including a number of Libyan Special Forces, less formally known as Al-Saiqa Brigade led by Major General Wanis Bukhamada.
More than 30 members of GNA’ militias were reportedly killed on the outskirts of the city of Sirte. The LNA led by Feld Marshall Khalifa Haftar pushed back Tripoli militias, forcing them to withdraw beyond the Al-Washka area on Saturday. The LNA also claimed to have shot down two Turkish drones, burning of more than a dozen vehicles belonging to the Al-Wefaq militias by aerial bombardment and the Libyan Army’s Cornet in Sirte axes.
To find a peaceful solution to the crisis, after the resumption of the United Nations-sponsored contact group talks in Geneva (5+5), General Haftar and the President of the Libyan Parliament, Aguila Salah, went to Cairo for high-level talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. During a joint press conference, they announced a new plan for Libya, which led to legitimate presidential and parliamentary elections. Haftar agreed to a new political initiative that includes a ceasefire from Monday and a longer-term peace plan. The International Community welcomed the “Cairo Declaration”, in particular the US Embassy in Libya, while Italy and Turkey remained silent, and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) as well.
Speaking alongside Haftar and Aguila Saleh, Sisi proposed a plan that includes talks in Geneva, the election of a leadership council, the disbanding of militias and the exit of all foreign fighters from Libya. The GNA and the High Council of State, led by Muslim Brotherhood’ Khaled al-Meshri rejected the Egypt’s proposals. Most of Libyans criticized on social networks the UNSMIL position, accusing in particular the Special Representative of Secretary General (SRSG) Stephanie Williams to not be neutral leaning towards Al-Wefaq, especially Interior minister Fathi Pashagha. Libyans called to appoint a new envoy after the resignation of Ghassan Salamé in March. Also, France and Italy, the main European players in Libya agreed to find a new UN SRSG.
The Mission lost its credibility as it ignored all crimes of GNA’ armed gangs in the areas previously controlled by the LNA. Ten civilians were killed in Qasr Bin Gashir, on June 4th, two families were killed near the city of Sirte the day after. Tripoli and Misurata’ militias burned and looted the city mall of Tarhouna, destroyed the cemetery as retaliation act against civilians supporting the LNA, following the destruction of many houses and the natural park. Not even the animals were spared the violence of the GNA militias. A man was also reportedly killed by al-Wefaq groups, in Bani Walid, with the accusation of preparing meals for Haftar’s troops.
The Libyan conflict has been prolonged by Turkish interference. The president Recep Tayyip Erdogan deployed thousands of Syrian mercenaries in Libya by the end of 2019 until now. Libyan people rejected Erdogan’s role in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, his expansionist plans in the region and his dreams for the return of the Ottoman Empire. Tunisian leader of Ennahda political party and head of the Parliament Rashid Ghannouchi, and the leaders of MB Libyan wing Ali al-Salabi and Muhammad Sowan asked Erdogan to intervene in Libya under the pretext of “protecting the legitimate government and defending the civil state against military rule,” but the truth is that their project is close to a collapse. Liberating Tripoli from the militias means stopping the group’s funding.
Concerned for the security of its member States, also Europe repeatedly condemned Turkish and GNA collaboration, following several reports of radical Syrian elements in Libya as defenders of the Al-Sarraj government. Erdogan aims to intimidate Europe and in particular Italy as those extremists infiltrate among migrants departing from Western Libya towards European costs. At least 41 Syrians were reportedly arrived in Italy by sea, confirming that the next mercenaries’ destination will be Europe.
Erdogan has played a destructive role in Syria and is repeating his mistakes in Libya. Turkey’s intervention had broken international law and had reignited the conflict. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan should be investigated and indicted for war crimes over his country’s military offensive in Syria, former prosecutor and U.N. investigator Carla del Ponte repeatedly said, indicating that Erdogan invaded Syrian territory to destroy the Kurds.
By October 2019, Russian and Turkish forces started to patrol a narrower, 10-km strip of land in northeast Syria where U.S. troops had been deployed for years alongside their former Kurdish allies. Turkey’s NATO allies, including the United States, have criticized its military incursion in northeast Syria, fearing it will undermine the fight against Islamic State militants. But European nations were reluctant to confront Turkey over its actions after Erdogan threatened to “open the gates” for refugees to head to Europe. In Libya as in Syria Erdogan has the migrants as a bargaining chip.
The mad missions abroad, the continuous military and financial support to the Muslim Brotherhood, the financing of the terrorist groups, and the colonial expansionist campaign have reduced millions of Turks to poverty. Despite the strong repression against the press to hide the bad management of the COVID-19 emergency, the Turkish lira has reached the historical lows in the exchange rate with the dollar, leading to the fleeing of investors from the country.
This explains why Erdogan’s party sees increasing opposition. During the Holy month of Ramadan, instead of the adhan, the ritual call to Islamic prayer, several mosques in Smirne surprisingly spread the notes of the Italian song “Bella Ciao”. The words “O partisan, take me away”, although in the version “Cav Bella” adapted in the Turkish language, sounded like a colossal criticism to Erdogan’s regime, if not a real mockery. So much that provoked the reaction of the spokesman of the Islamic party, a former Turkish minister. People later realized that the Bella Ciao in Turkish was the one chanted by Grup Yorum, the folk band murdered last month by the hunger strike deaths of three of its members.
The singer Helin Bolek, the bassist Ibrahim Gokcek, and the guitarist Mustafa Kocak. The three artists let themselves die after 300 days of voluntary fasting, after the Erdogan’s authorities banned them from performing in concert, on charges of links with terrorism. Grup Yorum is a band born in the popular neighborhood of Istanbul, that most oppose Erdogan’s party. At the end of their concerts, Grup Yorum used to end the performance in a big hug with the audience, singing together “Bella Ciao” in Turkish. A song dear also to the Kurdish guerrillas both in Kobane, Syria, and in the PKK, the Workers Party of Kurdistan, the movement considered terrorist, for forty years fighting with the Ankara army.