By Cinzia Bianco for Gulf State Analytics
During the 2011 popular upheaval against the Libyan regime that led to Moammar Gaddafi’s ouster, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined Qatar in the quest to find Arab solutions to Arab problems. After intense diplomatic activity to secure the support of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League for the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which allowed an international coalition to set up a no-fly zone over Libya, Abu Dhabi extended significant logistical and material support to the rebels. The UAE sent a dozen aircraft to support the fight against Gaddafi and the country was also a major contributor on the humanitarian front.
The UAE also played an active role politically. Abu Dhabi hosted meetings of Libya’s provincial and tribal representatives in May 2011 and the third meeting of the International Contact Group in June. That month, the United Arab Emirates became the second Arab state to recognize the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Indeed, the relationship between Abu Dhabi and the new Libya continued to strengthen after Gaddafi’s ouster. When Abdurrahim el-Keib served as Interim Prime Minister (November 2011 – November 2012), links between Libya and the UAE were further cemented. In fact, el-Keib gave up his position as Departmental Chair in the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi to move to Tripoli.
El-Keib’s successor, Ali Zeidan, who was in office until November 2014, frequently visited the Gulf states and sought the Emiratis’ involvement in the establishment of institutionalized security forces capable of providing security to Libya. Providing security in this conflict-ridden state, awash with the world’s largest arms cache and countless warring militias, was indeed a sensitive and strategic issue for Libya and the greater region.
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