Libya, who won and who lost (and what changes for Italy and Eni)

Libya, who won and who lost (and what changes for Italy and Eni)

Sarraj's victory is also a victory for Turkey in Libya. It also marks a defeat for Egypt and the Gulf countries that support Haftar's LNA. Eni is too deeply rooted and appreciated in Libya to be marginalized. Carlo Jean's analysis

The conquest of Tarhuna (locality 100 km south of Tripoli) and Sirte on the west coast of Misrata by the militias that support the Government of National Agreement (GNA) of Sarraj and the withdrawal, practically without fighting, of the varied National Army Libyan (LNA) of Marshal Haftar, mark a turning point in the conflict in Libya.

Sarraj, who had fought a year for GNA's survival, appears to be the winner. He has resumed UN-sponsored peace negotiations for a week, but has said he will continue to fight until Haftar's complete defeat and country's reunification.

Sarraj's victory is also a victory for Turkey. It also marks a defeat for Egypt and the Gulf countries that support the LNA.

It is almost certainly not a defeat for Russia, which supported Haftar, but which acts in close cooperation with Turkey.

The situation could quickly reverse, as has already happened since mid-May. At that time, Haftar appeared to be the winner, although he did not have the necessary staff to conquer Tripoli and to move from Sirte to Misurata.

The conflict is increasingly becoming a proxy war, of which Moscow and Ankara are firmly in line. What will happen – i.e. its escalation until the final victory of one of the two contenders, or a de-escalation that would end with an agreement to divide Libya, or finally with the continuation of a stalemate and low-intensity conflict – it depends on the decisions of Putin and Erdogan. They will be influenced by the respective achievement of the objectives that were proposed by deciding to intervene in Libya. What the other actors will decide, from local militias to regional powers, is of marginal importance.

Europe, which Ursula von der Leyen would like "geopolitics", is now completely marginalized. Operation "Irini" (in Greek, "peace") aimed at enforcing the arms embargo is a joke.

After the resignation of Ghassan Salamé, the UN also counts for nothing. The United States seems completely disinterested, despite the fact that Africancom has expressed concerns about the deployment of 14 Russian fighters in Libya, probably used to protect the retreat of the 1,400-2,000 Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group, sent to support Haftar.

It may be that Moscow has lost faith in the inconclusive marshal, that he tries to replace him with another political representative of the HoR of Tobruk (Agulia Saleh, recently met with Lavrov) and to agree with Turkey an agreement that will safeguard the essence of his interests.

Agreements already exist between Russia and Turkey. A peace attempt was made in January. Turkish armed drones supplied to Sarraj do not attack Russian mercenaries.

The diplomacies of the two countries are in an almost permanent meeting. There are many common interests.

The main one is that of the Levantine basin and of the common opposition to the Eastmed pipeline. Neither Putin nor Erdogan can afford a protracted war. Both, after having put Italy and France out of play in Libya, would like the fighting to end.

Libya has enough resources to satisfy both of them. A political solution would guarantee privileged access to Libyan oil and gas resources and to the tens of billions of dollars of the country's reconstruction.

Politically it would affirm their role in the Mediterranean and their ability to be arbitrators and mediators.

In particular, for Turkey it is essential that compliance with the agreement made with the GNA on the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Levantine Basin in the south of Cyprus, however, is guaranteed – that is, even in the event of division of the country – opposed by the EU, Egypt, from Greece and Israel. Moscow fully supports it so as not to lose the practical monopoly of its gas supplies to the EU in the "southern corridor".

An incomplete defeat of Haftar increases the possibility of a solution imposed by Moscow and Ankara. The end of the conflict, however, is not so simple.

Not so much because of Sarraj's claim not to come to terms with the "coup" and "traitors", but because nobody has the strength to disarm the militias and control the immense territory. An internal struggle for power in both the GNA and the LNA is not necessarily unleashed. Perhaps the easiest solution is to divide the country between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, each with a part of Fezzan, with its rich oil deposits.

This solution, if agreed and protected by Moscow and Ankara, would completely put Italy out of the Libyan political game. The "equidistance" policy followed by our country between Sarraj and Haftar will reveal itself for what it really is: a "non-politics", which made us lose the "fourth bank".

Italy will however end up "sketching". In general sarcasm, he will likely affirm that Moscow and Ankara have "copied" his idea of ​​a "political solution".

The current Italian oil and gas interests are only marginally affected. Future ones could be more.

Eni is a reality too deeply rooted and appreciated in Libya to be marginalized. To reach the European market, Libyan gas must pass through the Green Stream.

Of course, our construction companies would be penalized in the country's rich reconstruction contracts.

Whatever the solution to the Libyan crisis, it will ultimately have little impact on the flow of immigrants and the fight against terrorism.

Perhaps, putting aside the "sacred principles", we should conclude an agreement with Tripoli similar to that made by Malta for migrants, which took us by surprise and displaced us.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Sun, 07 Jun 2020 17:28:12 +0000.