New Russian jets draw Libyan conflict to riskier stalemate - Reuters

The delivery of Russian jets to Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army will bring their battle against the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord to a stalemate, Reuters said on Friday.

“Recent weeks have marked a turning point in a complex conflict between two uneasy coalitions that are each backed by an array of foreign states whose competing regional agendas make them unwilling to countenance defeat,” the news agency said.

Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, in its fight against Haftar’s LNA forces, which are supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, among others.

Last Monday, GNA forces captured al-Watiya airbase after Turkey stepped up its military intervention, sending drones, air defence systems, armoured vehicles and thousands of Syrian mercenaries in support.

At the same time, the Russian military delivered some 14 MiG-29 and Su-24 fighter jets to the LNA’s al-Jufra airbase, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said on Tuesday, which Reuters said could “turn the tide of war”.

“It appears the purpose of these fighter jets and the redeployment to central and southern Libya now is to stabilise and freeze the military situation,” Wolfram Lacher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs was quoted by Reuters as saying.

After a phone call last Thursday between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the two countries jointly called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and the resumption of a United Nations-led political process.

Reuters called the move a possible sign the two countries had “hashed out a backroom deal” to avoid a direct confrontation after the deployment of the Russian jets.

“They put the gun on the table to signal to Turkey that there are limits to where its forces can advance towards the east,” an unnamed Western diplomat working on Libya told Reuters.