The United Arab Emirates is playing a destabilising role in Libya, analysts say, days after the release of a UN report that accuses the Gulf nation of repeatedly violating an international arms embargo.
The UN’s Libya Sanctions Committee report, released on Friday, reveals the UAE has supplied attack helicopters and other military aircraft to the Libyan forces of renegade General Khalifa Haftar, in violation of UN-backed international sanctions against the regime.
“The United Arab Emirates have been providing both material support and direct support to LNA, which have significantly increased the air support available to LNA,” said the report by a UN panel of experts.
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is aligned with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and refuses to recognise the UN-backed government in Tripoli, has taken significant ground in eastern and central Libya over the course of the past year, including military bases, cities and oil facilities.
Analysts say air power played a role in those advances.
The report provides rare insight into foreign funding of armed groups in Libya, which many say has exacerbated the conflict.
It shows there has been an uptick in direct foreign support to armed groups in Libya, despite a UN embargo imposed on the country during the 2011 uprising and tightened in 2014.
The panel traced deliveries of Belarus-made attack helicopters back to the UAE and provided satellite imagery of the LNA’s Al Khadim airbase, about 105km east of Benghazi, which shows a gradual build-up of infrastructure and aircraft, and drones “most probably” operated by the UAE.
Belarus confirmed to the panel that four helicopters were sold to the United Arab Emirates in 2014.
The report also confirms an April 2016 delivery to the LNA in the eastern city of Tobruk of 93 armoured personnel carriers and 549 armoured and non-armoured.
The personnel carriers, delivered by ship from Saudi Arabia, are likely to have included Panther T6 and Tygra models, both manufactured by UAE-based companies, the report said.
It also raised concerns over “large deliveries of Toyota pickup trucks and armoured 4×4 cars to Tobruk” in January and April this year.
UN requests to the UAE for clarification remain unanswered, the report said.
Mohammed al-Dharat, a Libyan MP who is currently boycotting parliamentary sessions, told Al Jazeera the UAE would not have been able to get anything into Libya without the help of other countries.
Dharat said the UAE’s actions in Libya were largely directed by Saudi Arabia, arguing the Gulf nation had become “the primary face of counterrevolution that Saudi stands behind and directs”.
Political analyst Mohammed Fouad agreed, adding that Saudi Arabia plays a largely hidden role in Libya through cover of the UAE and Egypt that had only recently become apparent during the Gulf crisis.
“The UAE is a small country and has no real weight in international politics, nor does it have strategic goals other than pushing all the Arab Spring countries back into military dictatorship, serving the Zionist agenda,” he said.
Sulaiman al-Faqih, a member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Committee, said the UAE’s violation of the arms embargo on Libya was a blatant breach of international law.
He called on the country’s Presidential Council “to submit an official complaint at the UN Security Council protesting the UAE’s violation of Libya’s sovereignty”.
The Benghazi Defence Brigades, a group that supports the UN-backed government in Tripoli, said in a statement that the UAE was playing a “dangerous role” in Libya.
“It is no secret to anyone following the Libyan situation that the UAE is actively trying to blur the hallmarks of the February revolution,” the group said.
“The fact is, the role of the UAE in Libya is to obstruct and thwart all efforts of national reconciliation, fuel the war between the Libyan people, violate national sovereignty … all for control and the extension of influence and domination.