Greece seeking to save interests by supporting eastern Libya against legitimate government, says political expert
By Mahmoud Barakat, Anadolu Agency
Greece has been left in a tight corner after betting on East Libya-based warlord Khalifa Haftar, a Turkey-based scholar has said.
After Haftar’s 2019 military campaign to recapture the capital Tripoli failed, many of his allies gave up on him. More recently, he lost key cities following an operation by the Tripoli-based legitimate government of Libya.
However, Greece officially maintains talks with eastern Libya.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Wednesday paid a two-day visit to Tobruk, during which he met with Aguila Saleh, head of the pro-Haftar House of Representatives.
According to a statement by the Tobruk-based parliament, the two sides discussed ways to enhance bilateral ties including trade and Dendias expressed interest in opening a Greek consulate in Benghazi city which is under the control of Haftar’s militia.
The Greek position has become worse as “everyone is giving up on Haftar especially after the last French position,” said Ali Bakeer, a political analyst.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently said that Paris does not support Haftar or war in Libya, but backs political and peaceful solution.
“I think that Greece is now conducting a similar maneuver, but in a way that guarantees its interests,” the political expert said.
Greece is seeking to maintain its maritime border issue through eastern Libya as a backdoor, avoiding the legitimate government.
Greece “claims 33,000 square kilometers [over 9600 square nautical miles] in Libyan waters,” Bakeer said.
“However, I think that considering the Libyan people, any Libyan side that cedes Libya’s rights in [the Mediterranean Sea] waters will be considered as a traitor, thus I think this is a lost bet,” Bakeer asserted.
Solving the maritime issues with Libya has become significant for Greece, especially after failing to sign a maritime demarcation with Egypt. Such agreements have become significant with the increased discoveries of natural gas in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.
“I do not think that they [the Greeks] are in a position to make gains, on the contrary, if Greece wants to guarantee its interests, it must adjust its policy and stance to support the Libyan legitimate government and try to resolve any possible disputes through talks,” Bakeer said.
He stressed that “feeding internal Libyan conflicts through supporting eastern Libya could lead to greater repercussions, that could mount up to the division of Libya and causing regional wars that will impact Greece in the long run.”
Commenting on Athens’s interest in establishing a consulate in Benghazi, the political researcher said the rift would be deepened in Libya if Greece or its allies supported a side against another.
Whether supporting the Tobruk-based parliament or the self-proclaimed Tobruk government, both would lead to “raising instability and perhaps the emergence of terrorism in the future,” Bakeer said.
Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country’s new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by Haftar’s forces.
The UN recognizes the Libyan government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj as the country’s legitimate authority as Tripoli battles Haftar’s militias.
The government launched Operation Peace Storm against Haftar in March to counter Haftar’s attacks on the capital Tripoli, and recently liberated strategic locations, including Tarhuna, Haftar’s final stronghold in western Libya.