The Clash of Interests in Libya: European and Middle Eastern Powers at Odds


The ongoing conflict in Libya has become a battleground for competing interests among various regional and international actors. In particular, European and Middle Eastern powers find themselves entangled in a complex web of strategic, economic, and ideological considerations. This article, presented on behalf of the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, delves into the clash of interests in Libya, highlighting the involvement of key actors and examining the implications for regional stability.

1. European Interests:

European powers, including France, Italy, and Germany, have been actively involved in Libya due to its proximity to Europe, the risk of uncontrolled migration, and the potential impact on energy security. These countries have differing approaches and objectives, which often lead to divergent policies and actions.

a) France: France has been accused of supporting General Khalifa Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya, aiming to counter extremist groups and stabilize the country. Paris has cited concerns over terrorism and the spread of instability as key drivers of its involvement.

b) Italy: Italy, as Libya’s former colonial power, has taken a more nuanced approach. It has sought to maintain influence by engaging with various factions and supporting the United Nations-led peace process. Italy also prioritizes stability to prevent further waves of migration from Libya.

c) Germany: Germany has played a significant role in mediating peace efforts and facilitating dialogue among the Libyan factions. Berlin hosted the 2020 Berlin Conference, which sought to establish a roadmap for a political solution and ceasefire in Libya.

2. Middle Eastern Interests:

Middle Eastern powers, such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt, have also been deeply involved in Libya, driven by regional power struggles, ideological considerations, and economic interests.

a) Turkey: Turkey has emerged as a key supporter of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Ankara’s involvement stems from its desire to expand its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean, secure access to energy resources, and counterbalance its regional rivals.

b) UAE: The UAE has backed General Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), motivated by concerns over political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE also views Haftar as a potential stabilizing force against extremist groups.

c) Egypt: Egypt, sharing a long border with Libya, sees the conflict as a direct security threat. Cairo supports Haftar’s forces to counter Islamist groups and safeguard its own stability. Egypt also seeks to protect its interests in Libya’s oil and gas reserves.

3. Impact on Regional Stability:

The clash of interests among European and Middle Eastern powers in Libya has exacerbated the conflict, hindered diplomatic efforts, and prolonged the suffering of the Libyan people. These rivalries have led to the influx of foreign fighters, the proliferation of weapons, and the violation of the UN arms embargo.

a) Humanitarian Consequences: The ongoing conflict has resulted in widespread displacement, loss of life, and a deteriorating humanitarian situation. The clash of interests has obstructed efforts to achieve a durable ceasefire and address the urgent needs of the population.

b) Geopolitical Rivalries: The involvement of external powers has fueled regional rivalries, including the broader struggle between Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Qatar and Turkey. These tensions risk spilling over into other regional theaters and exacerbating existing conflicts.

c) Economic Implications: Libya’s vast oil reserves make it an attractive prize for both European and Middle Eastern powers. The competition for control over oil fields and the potential for lucrative energy contracts have economic ramifications for all parties involved.

The clash of interests in Libya between European and Middle Eastern powers underscores the complexity of the conflict and its wider implications for regional stability. The competing agendas, geopolitical struggles, and economic interests have hindered efforts to achieve a sustainable political solution and have perpetuated the suffering of the Libyan people. The involvement of external powers has further polarized the conflict, leading to increased violence, arms proliferation, and a disregard for the UN arms embargo.

To address this multifaceted issue, a coordinated and comprehensive approach is necessary. International actors, particularly European and Middle Eastern powers, must prioritize diplomacy, dialogue, and mediation efforts to facilitate a political resolution that respects Libya’s sovereignty and the will of its people. Key steps should include:

– Multilateral Diplomacy: The United Nations and regional organizations like the African Union should take the lead in facilitating negotiations among the conflicting parties. Dialogue platforms, such as the Berlin Process, should be strengthened to bring together all stakeholders and promote consensus-building.

– Arms Embargo Enforcement: The international community must enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya strictly. Violations of the embargo perpetuate the conflict and undermine diplomatic efforts. Sanctions should be imposed on individuals and entities involved in arms trafficking to hold them accountable.

– Economic Stabilization: Efforts should be made to prevent the exploitation of Libya’s natural resources for personal gain and to ensure equitable distribution of wealth. Transparency and accountability in the management of oil revenues are crucial to avoid exacerbating economic disparities and incentivizing conflict.

– Regional Cooperation: Regional powers, both European and Middle Eastern, should engage in constructive dialogue to find common ground and prevent further escalation. Confidence-building measures and shared security initiatives can contribute to stability and counter the influence of extremist groups.

– Humanitarian Assistance: Addressing the urgent humanitarian needs of the Libyan population is of utmost importance. The international community should provide increased support for humanitarian organizations on the ground, ensuring access to essential services, including healthcare, food, and shelter.

In conclusion, the clash of interests in Libya between European and Middle Eastern powers has added complexity to an already volatile situation. It is essential for all actors involved to prioritize the well-being of the Libyan people, cease interference, and work towards a political resolution. By fostering dialogue, enforcing the arms embargo, promoting economic stabilization, encouraging regional cooperation, and providing humanitarian assistance, the international community can contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous future for Libya and the wider region.


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