May 22, 2020
Russia and Turkey double down in Libya
Russia and Turkey have reached another turning point in their proxy war in Libya. The FT reports of a suspected deployment of at least eight Russian-made fighter jets to Libya from Syria. If confirmed, it could seriously escalate the situation in Libya. Admiral Khalifa Haftar, backed by Russia, suffered a series of setbacks including the loss of the al-Watiya airbase this week after Turkish drones destroyed Russian-made Pantsir air-defence systems. The Turks acted in support of their faction, the GNA government in Tripoli. If the new fighter jets are a quid-pro-quo in retaliation, Russia may destroy Turkish equipment, or the airbase itself to make it unusable. The foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia called for a cease fire after a phone call this week, but at the same time Turkey warned of grave consequences if Turkish interests in Libya are targeted. Observers now fear both sides doubling down in support of the opposing factions. There has been a massive influx of weapons, equipment and mercenaries over the last weeks. Wolfram Lacher, an expert on the region, said that the big question is whether Russia and Turkey can step back from this looming escalation, and once again press their Libyan clients to negotiate a ceasefire.