The Trump administration is amplifying its callsÂ for a cease-fire in Libya as the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by Turkey, threatens to advance on the coastal city of Sirte.
â€œOver the past weeks, President Trump has spoken with several world leaders about Libya, and it is clear there is no winningâ€™ side,â€ US national security adviser Robert Oâ€™Brien said in aÂ press releaseÂ on Monday, referring to the United StatesÂ as â€œan activeÂ but neutral actorâ€ in the conflict.
Oâ€™Brien called on all parties to the conflict, â€œboth those responsible for the current escalation and those working to end it,Â to enable the [Libyan] National Oil Corporation (NOC) to resume its vital workÂ with full transparencyÂ and to implement a demilitarized solution for Sirte and al-Jufra, respect the UN arms embargo, and finalize a cease-fire under the UN-led 5+5 military talks.â€
Why it matters:Â Â The United StatesÂ is seizing on the GNAâ€™s momentum to try and peel Hifter away from his foreign backers by pushing for a restoration of economic cooperation between both sides in the civil war. After the United StatesÂ reportedlyÂ threatened Hifter with sanctions if he did not reopen the countryâ€™s oil flow, Wagner mercenaries moved into southern oilfields and the coastal al-Sidr terminal.
Washington then publicly broadened its threat, saying it would sanction Hifterâ€™s foreign backers if they obstruct the return of oil flow. The warning prompted a conciliatory statement from the United Arab Emirates, which Libyaâ€™s NOC blamed after Hifter reversed his decision to cooperate with the oil body.
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has expressed pointed concern that escalation in Libya could lead to deeper Russian military entrenchment, which could pose a potential problem for NATO.
Whatâ€™s next:Â Â Though Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates andÂ Saudi Arabia have publicly called for a cease-fire,Â signsÂ on the ground indicate they may be preparing for the worst, and itâ€™s not clear, at least publicly, thatÂ TurkeyÂ and the GNA are interested inÂ resolving the situationÂ peacefully.
AFRICOM said last month thatÂ Russian fighter aircraftÂ and possibly troops had been spotted near SirteÂ â€”Â a sign the Kremlin is taking few chances on its sunk costs.
Doubling down on rhetoric earlier this week, Hifter likened Turkey’s intervention to colonialism andÂ threatened to meet Ankara’s forces â€œwith bullets.”
Turkeyâ€™s maritime agreement with the GNA has riled Mediterranean neighbors. Last week,Â Saudi Arabia renewed a diplomatic pushÂ to rally North African countries’ opposition to Ankaraâ€™s designs.