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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Europe Blindsided by US Stance on Libya


Abdelsatar Hetieta

Tue, 23 Apr 2019 15:02 GMT

President Trump blindsided European allies and many of his own diplomats last week when he endorsed an advance toward Tripoli by Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Ibrahim Belkasem, a Libyan analyst, told 7Dnews that the phone call between the US President Donald Trump and the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar a few days ago will play an important role in “drawing the map of Libya’s future.”

However, the American-Egyptian analyst, Sherif El-Helwa, sees no radical shift in Washington’s policy towards the Libyan crisis.

Speaking from Washington, El-Helwa said Field Marshal Haftar, the arch-opponent of Fayez Al-Sarraj, the head of the internationally-recognized Libyan Presidency Council, seems to be seeking further support beyond the European Union.

“The Oval Office considers the Libyan crisis as mainly ‘European’, regardless of the phone call between Trump and Haftar,” Helwa told 7Dnews.

Helwa added that Trump is seeking the White House’s support to play a greater role in Libya, and the whole region.

“Trump simply wants to make the US presence felt,” said Helwa.

A European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that any differences among the US lawmakers affect the European and Russian decisions. The diplomat referred to the opposing stance recently stated by Representative Adam Schiff, a top Democrat in the Senate.

On April 21st, Schiff criticized on Twitter Trump’s endorsement of General Haftar, whom he described as “an authoritarian attacking a United Nations backed government.”

Belkasem, however, contends that this is only a part of the war that has been waged by the Democrats against Trump since he came to office.

In the past few days, the UK has tried to push the international community to officially condemn Haftar’s dispatch of troops from his free-styled LNA towards Tripoli. The British position is opposed by France, Russia and the United States.

“The Russian and US stance that opposes the British policy represents a vital turning point in the Libyan crisis,” said Belkasem.

For European powers including Italy and the UK, the military campaign led by Haftar is a setback, whereas France, Russia and the US oppose any action against the military strongman.

“It is surprising that Russia and the US are sharing common ground on the Libyan crisis,” Belkasem said.

Since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, international deals on oil and investment, worth of billions of dollars, have been halted.

Meanwhile, Italy, the UK, and France are endeavouring to cut deals in the fields of oil and gas, while Russia plans to sell weapons to Libya in the future. On the other hand, the US hopes to support a strongman in the oil-rich African country to secure the business of its Libya-based giant oil companies.

Helwa sees that Haftar’s advance toward Tripoli resulted in a division among European powers, which has driven the US to interfere.

“But I don’t think there will be a split among the US lawmakers regarding Trump’s phone call to Haftar, for the US is still not much concerned about the Libyan crisis,” Helwa added.