Ageela Salah calls for a political solution as Greek tanker gets attacked
The second round of UN-sponsored negotiations scheduled for Monday 5 January has been postponed once again due to lack of agreement over what could be the appropriate location for them. Contrary to rumors circulating last week, it appears now that both sides are willing to carry out negotiations only within Libya. On an ecnouraging note, speaking from Cairo, HoR President Ageela Salah made some interesting remarks with regards to the impossibility of pursuing a military solution to solve this crisis and about the need to pursue dialogue. Although these statements will probably remain only on paper, they do appear after a week packed with rumors of growing tension between HoR members and the higher echelons of Operation Dignity over the management of the current crisis. In light of rapproachement maneuvers being carried out in Qatar by the HoR-affiliated Libya Minister of Foreign Affairs, these statements could even be harbingers of significant changes and developments within the Tubruq-based block.
The situation in the country, however, continues to be highly unstable and volatile. On Sunday, a jet believed to belong to air forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity attacked a Greek-owned tanker that was approaching the port of Derna. Although the tanker ‘Araevo’ was affiliated with the NOC and had been travelling for years between Marsa-Brega’s and Derna’s ports, its behavior was deemed ‘suspicious’ by Operation Dignity forces that attacked it, causing the death of two crew members and prompting a strong reaction from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Whilst the ‘collateral damage’ caused by this attack might end up being considered ‘minimal’ in the bigger picture, and it certainly does not come as a surprise to those monitoring developments in the ports sector, it nonetheless shows the disruptive potential that prolonged instability in Libya might have on both the Sahel and the Mediterranean basin. In regard to this, during the past few days growing frustration for the lack of significant progress on the negotiations front led a number of countries neighboring Libya to call for an external intervention to stop the fighting and disband rival militias. While not openly speaking of intervention, a similar message was conveyed also by the French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to troops stationed in Niger. However, on Monday, French President Francois Hollande ruled out the possibility of a French-led military intervention in the country, underlining that this could happen only in the framework of an operation led by larger international organisations. Nonetheless, the statements made by Hollande reported below leave little doubt as to the intentions of French forces to adopt an approach based on drone-enforced surveillance and targeted strikes similar to that employed by the US in other regions of the greater Middle East marred by lawlessness and by the presence of radical militants (e.g. Yemen, Pakistan).
“We are making sure to contain the terrorism that took refuge there, in southern Libya. But France will not intervene in Libya because it’s up to the international community to take its responsibility,” Hollande said Monday on France-Inter radio. While he ruled out unilateral intervention inside Libya, he said French forces will strike Islamic extremists “every time they leave these places where they are hiding.”
To do that, France is setting up a military base in northern Niger, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the lawless Libyan border region. About 200 troops are deployed in the desert outpost at Madama. French and U.S. drones are already operating out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.