Libya has been grappling with a bloody civil war for almost a decade. And yet, so far, the international community has failed to live up to its responsibility to end the violence and restore peace and stability.
Today, we’re witnessing the consequences of that apathy.
Libya’s government, which the United Nations recognizes, has been under attack by the warlord Khalifa Haftar for several years. His armed group, which seeks to carry out a coup d’état in the country, enjoys support from the anti-democratic governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates among others.
Despite efforts to broker a political solution, such as the 2015 Skhirat agreement, the world has not done enough to support pro-diplomacy and pro-dialogue actors in Libya.
In Europe, the issue has divided the Continent, which has yet to make up its mind about what to do in Libya. Germany, which supports the country’s legitimate government and advocates diplomacy, will host a peace conference in Berlin on Sunday. By contrast, France has sided with the Libyan coup plotter, Haftar, against that country’s legitimate government.
Some may wonder why Europe ought to get involved in the Libyan conflict in the first place, given that there are other wars, confrontations and humanitarian crises unfolding all around the world.
For one, the European Union’s potential failure to adequately support Libya’s Government of National Accord would be a betrayal of its own core values, including democracy and human rights. To leave Libya at the mercy of a warlord would be a mistake of historic proportions.
Moreover, Europe will encounter a fresh set of problems and threats if Libya’s legitimate government were to fall.
Terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, which suffered a military defeat in Syria and Iraq, will find a fertile ground to get back on their feet. Indeed, some groups that largely share those terrorist organizations’ ideology, including the Madkhali-Salafis, are fighting alongside Haftar. If the conflict rages on, the violence and instability will also fuel irregular migration toward Europe.
The Libyan civil war serves as a litmus test for the EU. Will European leaders uphold the liberal world order in the face of yet another attack? Or will they abdicate their responsibilities, as they did in Syria, to watch the crisis unfold from the sidelines?
Our European friends and allies need to understand that they cannot change the world simply by complaining and expressing concern. International law, democracy and human rights cannot be defended without assuming some responsibility.
History teaches us that rewarding those who turn their backs on diplomacy and make a mockery of the international community only leads to more serious problems down the road. And yet the most recent developments in Libya suggest that some European leaders haven’t learned these lessons.
The EU needs to show the world that it is a relevant actor in the international arena. The upcoming peace conference in Berlin is a very significant step toward that goal. European leaders, however, ought to talk a little less and focus on taking concrete steps.
Keeping in mind that Europe is less interested in providing military support to Libya, the obvious choice is to work with Turkey, which has already promised military assistance.
Turkey fully supports Libya’s U.N.-backed, legitimate government. Under the most recent security and military cooperation agreements, we pledged to protect the Libyan government from coup plotters. In this regard, we will train Libya’s security forces and help them combat terrorism, human trafficking and other serious threats against international security.
Europe finds itself at a crossroads. And at this historic junction, those working for peace must be courageous and do everything in their power to end violence. Europe can count on Turkey — an old friend and loyal ally — to achieve that goal.