Let us recall that a conference in Paris on Libya was one of the first foreign policy gestures of the current presidential mandate. Since then, high-level French authorities have continually kept in touch with the Libyan officer, even in April 2019 when he began the offensive against Tripoli. With what objective? One interpretation could be to get the warlord of Cyrenaica to respect the international community’s demands, such as those recently made at the Berlin conference in January. More cynically, according to critics of the French position, to play the part of a candidate for power who has the double merit (in the eyes of Paris) of being a credible force and to be following a "secular" orientation.
The French spokespeople are obviously not wrong in pointing out that peace cannot be established without taking into account one of the conflict’s major players, whose forces still control two-thirds of the country ( they don’t control the capital or the oil fields).
In any case, French foreign policy has, over the years, faced many obstacles. There are internal divisions within the Libyan people, and Khalifa Haftar’s personality has been described as that of an "eradicating welder" by diplomats. Beyond that, there has been jealousy from European partners, including Italy, who is particularly interested in Libya, and who perceives France’s attitude as that of a "lone rider". To top it all off, there is Russia and Turkey that also need to be dealt with.
Russia and Turkey: between competition and complicity
Russia got involved in Libya relatively late. It proceeded slowly and with caution, adopting a strategy similar to the one used in Syria and elsewhere. Moscow first established political contact with Haftar, then sent him military equipment and (Russian) mercenaries from the Wagner company. In the meantime, it did not break ties with the Tripoli government, under the guise of aiming for a ceasefire and a political process.