On May 18th, the Government of National Accord’s forces took control of al-Watiya airbase from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Notably, a Russian-made Pantsir-S1 air defense system was captured, and was being moved towards Tripoli to be paraded as a war trophy.
It is potentially on its way to Turkey, after that.
Looks like the GNA is sparing no time getting the Pantsir-S1 out of al-Watiya, undoubtedly heading to Turkey. Since this is Libya the whole process has to be filmed of course. pic.twitter.com/IALtCfyL54
— Oryx (@oryxspioenkop) May 18, 2020
Pantsir close ups.
Was locked and loaded… pic.twitter.com/50TwPy1IjB
— Oded Berkowitz (@Oded121351) May 18, 2020
— Oded Berkowitz (@Oded121351) May 18, 2020
— Oded Berkowitz (@Oded121351) May 19, 2020
The LNA, however, hasn’t given up on Al-Watiya and the air force carried out strikes on GNA positions in and around the base, no casualties have been confirmed.
#قاعده_الوطيه تحت قصف طيران السلاح الجو الليبي .
— غصة الخوارج (@LiBya_73) May 18, 2020
— عماد فتحي E.Fathi (@emad_badish) May 18, 2020
The LNA also said that the GNA hadn’t been able to obtain any weaponry from al-Watiya, but the videos and photographs of the Pantsir-S1 prove otherwise.
#ليبيا — الجيش: سحب ألف آلية مدرّعة وكل الطائرات ومنظومات الدفاع الجوي من قاعدة الوطية
— ا لـ حـ ـد ث (@AlHadath) May 18, 2020
The LNA said that it had withdrawn 1,000 armored vehicles, as well as all defense systems and weapons.
— ImageSat Intl. (@ImageSatIntl) May 18, 2020
The Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones continue flying above, as they carried out an attack on an Krasukha electronic warfare system south of Sirte.
— Clash Report (@clashreport) May 18, 2020
Regarding the situation in Libya, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a discussion, and issued a statement saying that the Alliance’s position on the conflict was uniform.
On Libya, Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s readiness to help the war-torn North African country by building its defense and security capacities. The Erdoğan-Stoltenberg conversation came on the same day the latter explicitly lent support to the GNA.
In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, Stoltenberg acknowledged the fact that there is an ongoing arms embargo on Libya, stressing:
“However, this doesn’t mean to put on the same level the forces led by [Khalifa] Haftar and the government of Fayez al-Sarraj, the only one recognized by the U.N.”
“For this reason, NATO is ready to give its support to the government of Tripoli,” he said.
“NATO is prepared to help Libya in the area of defense and security institution building, in response to the request by the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord to assist the GNA to strengthen its security institutions,” he said.
“Any NATO assistance to Libya would take account of political and security conditions, and would be provided in full complementarity and in close coordination with other international efforts, including those of the UN and the EU. The Secretary General also recalled that all parties should respect the U.N. arms embargo, as reaffirmed at the Berlin International Conference on Libya in January this year, and that NATO fully supports U.N. efforts to find a political solution,” added the secretary-general.
Meanwhile, the countries that support the LNA, or simply are against Turkey’s spreading its influence in the Mediterranean issued statements prior to the progress in fighting.
Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, France and Cyprus xpressed their regret over the escalation of violence in Libya, and considered that Turkey’s agreement with the GNA threatens regional stability.
A joint statement issued by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, France and the UAE said that the latest worrying developments in the eastern Mediterranean were discussed, in addition to a number of regional crises that threaten peace and stability in that region.
Regardless of that, and following the current standstill in fighting and the GNA’s capturing of al-Watiya, Turkey used the chance to begin drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
State-run oil firm Turkish Petroleum has submitted an application to start drilling in parts of the eastern Mediterranean outlined in the country’s contentious maritime borders agreement with the Libyan government in Tripoli, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on May 14th.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Donmez said that Turkey’s gas an oil exploration plans will proceed as foreseen by the November 27, 2019 agreement, which seeks to create an exclusive economic zone from Turkey’s southern Mediterranean shore to Libya’s northeast coast.
Currently, the conflict is turning towards a fight for territory, which Turkey likely promised to assist in capturing from the LNA, in return for wider access to energy resources, despite any opposition from other states that show concern.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Turkish-backed Forces Captured Pantis-S1 Air Defense System, Mi-35 Helicopter At Libya’s Watiya Airbase (Map, Video, Photos)
- Satellite Images: Impact Of May 16 Turksih Strikes On Al-Watiah Air Base
- Government Of National Accord Wrestles Control Of Al-Watiya Airbase From Haftar’s Forces