France in Libya: New Approach, Old Mentality

France has always voiced its support – superficially – for Libya’s stability and sovereignty since the start of the military coup led by warlord Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, eastern Libya, in 2014. Since then, French presidents – at the time François Hollande – and the current one Emmanuel Macron, have expressed their solidarity with the Libyan people while supporting – covertly – Haftar’s militias militarily and logistically in his aim to bring back the military and authoritarian rule to the country with the help of the “cash cow” United Arab Emirates (UAE) which funded all Haftar’s military adventures to silence the democratic aspirations of the Libyan people.

To all appearances, the French president’s announcement to reopen his country’s embassy in Tripoli next Monday after about seven years of closure seems a new approach adopted by Macron, who received the Head of the Libyan Presidential Council of the Government of National Unity (GNU) Mohammed Menfi and his deputy Mossa Al-Koni, on Tuesday to emphasize this new era of bilateral relations with Tripoli.

Overtly, Macron’s statements could be interpreted as a new method for France that would entail breaking away from parallel institutions in Libya and supporting the international recognized government in full, and they could also mean that Paris was convinced – the hard way – that Haftar-led military endeavors that have been ongoing since 2014, would never pay off.

However, don’t get your hopes too high just yet, as the Libya analyst and researcher – Jalel Harchaoui – who is a senior fellow with the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized, said: “When Government of National Accord forces kicked out Haftar’s forces from northwestern Libya, many observers said France had understood that its previous policies were wrong and some said Macron would change his mentality [about Libya].”

Harchaoui told Libya Alahrar TV on Wednesday that this change isn’t true because the mentality hasn’t change in France, yet the apparent policies have.

“France will open its embassy in Tripoli, so we’ll see afterwards if Paris will help Libya’s new government in removing landmines and other issues.”

The senior fellow at Global Initiative said.

He reiterated that on the political level, France will continue to follow in the footsteps of the UAE.

This tendency has also been reiterated by several observers who believe that France still possesses an illegal military foothold in Al-Khadim airbase near Al-Marj town in Benghazi – an airbase that many reports, including the UN, have revealed that it is operated by the UAE with several French military experts working to support Haftar’s military endeavors.

It’s hard to surmise whether or not France will ever alter its approach and mentality together after it realizes that all Libyans are aspiring for democracy and the building of an elected civilian state.

Moreover, it remains questionable why Macron rushed to reopen Paris embassy in Tripoli so soon after the election of the new executive authority in Libya: is it to score political aims for France via the new government after it has failed over the years to achieve any political gains through siding with the parallel government and institutions in the east under the command of warlord Haftar.


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