20 May – 26 May: AFRICOM claims Russia deployed military aircraft in Libya

May 27, 2020 | International actors

On 26 May, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) issued a statement in which it ‘assessed’ that “Moscow recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground there” in support of the Libyan National Army (LNA). AFRICOM stated that Russia has employed state-sponsored Wagner in Libya to conceal its direct role in the country and “to afford Moscow plausible deniability of its malign actions.”

On 25 May, the Mayor of Bani Walid, Salim Alayman, announced that PMCs belonging to the Russian Wagner Group had entered Bani Walid and some were being evacuated by air to Jufra. Reports indicate that Wagner may also be withdrawing its Pantsir aerial defence systems through Jufra.

On 23 May, US President Donald Trump held a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in which they discussed the Libyan crisis. On 22 May, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a phone call with the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Serraj, in which he reiterated “US opposition to the continued level of weapons and ammunition being brought into the country”. On his Twitter account, Pompeo stressed that “a ceasefire leading to a political resolution” is the only option for Libya. In a conversation on 20 May, US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron noted “worsening foreign interference” in Libya and “agreed on the need for urgent de-escalation,” according to the White House.

On 19 May, acting UN Special Envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, called on the UN Security Council to pressure international players in Libya to cease their support of the competing Libyan factions, Williams welcomed the new political initiative proposed by House of Representatives (HoR) head Aqeela Saleh in late April and the constructive stance adopted by GNA head Fayez al-Serraj, while condemning Haftar’s declaration of military rule. The same day, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated on Twitter that in order to make progress on the Libyan crisis, “an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire and a return to the political process” is required.

The next day, Russia and Turkey called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Libya and the resumption of the political process under the auspices of the United Nations and within the framework of the Berlin Conference.