Turkey’s parliament has approved the deployment of troops to Libya aimed at shoring up the UN-backed government in Tripoli, sparking a blunt warning from US President Donald Trump. Trump called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after the Turkish parliament’s vote and said, “foreign interference is complicating the situation in Libya.”
Ironically, it was the “foreign interference” of the U.S. and its NATO allies that led to the ‘Arab Spring’ which further destabilized the already troubled Middle East, marred by proxy warfare and power games.
Libya has been beset by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and the west vying for power.
While Mr Fayez-al-Sarraj’s ‘Government of National Accord’ (GNA) is recognised by the United Nations as the legitimate government in Libya, it has been attempting to resist ‘military strongman’ Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli, the Libyan capital. Haftar is backed by Turkey’s regional rivals — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Libya’s elected parliament in the east — allied with Haftar — called Turkey’s prospective military intervention “high treason”
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) January 2, 2020
Egypt also strongly condemned the Turkish vote, saying it amounted to a “flagrant violation of international law and Security Council resolutions on Libya”, while Israel, Cyprus and Greece denounced a “dangerous threat to regional stability”.
Libya’s elected parliament in the east — allied with Haftar — called Turkey’s prospective military intervention “high treason”.
We are ready
President Erdogan is due to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin next Wednesday to inaugurate a new gas pipeline and Libya is expected to be a key topic of discussion.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused Russia of sending private mercenaries to support Haftar’s forces, though this has been denied by Moscow.
#Libya conflict: Turkish MPs approve bill to send troops: #Turkey's parliament has passed a bill that will allow the government to deploy troops to Libya to intervene in the civil war. https://t.co/97zsnE3R77
— OriginalBADYOGAKITTYⓋ (@minamaya13) January 3, 2020
At the same time, Turkey and Russia have managed to work closely on the Syrian conflict despite supporting opposing sides, and are expected to seek a similar balancing act with regards to Libya.
Erdogan’s office confirmed last Friday that a request for military support had been received from the internationally recognised Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
Erdogan has repeatedly accused Russia of sending private mercenaries to support Haftar’s forces, though this has been denied by Moscow
No details have been given on the scale of the potential deployment and Vice-President Fuat Oktay told state news agency Anadolu on Wednesday that no date had yet been set.
“We are ready. Our armed forces and our defence ministry are ready,” he said, adding that parliamentary approval would be valid for a year.
He described the parliament motion as a “political signal” aimed at deterring Haftar.
“After it passes, if the other side changes its attitude and says, ‘OK, we are withdrawing, we are abandoning our offensive,’ then what should we go there for?”
The bill passed easily by 325 votes to 184.
Libya tezkeresi ülkemizin çıkarlarının korunması ve bölgenin barış ve istikrarı için önemlidir. Hayırlı olsun.
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) January 2, 2020
“The Libyan motion is important for the protection of the interests of our country and for the peace and stability of the region,” Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in the tweet above, after the Parliamentary vote.
— Daniel Pipes دانيال بايبس (@DanielPipes) January 3, 2020
A UN report in November said several countries were violating the arms embargo on Libya in place since the overthrow of Kadhafi in 2011.
Jordan and the UAE regularly supply Haftar’s forces, it said, while Turkey supports the GNA. Turkish and Emirati drones were spotted in Libyan skies during clashes over the summer.
“We’re supporting the internationally recognised legitimate government in Libya. Outside powers must stop supporting illegitimate groups against the Libyan government,” Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun tweeted last week.
As we support the Libyan government, we do not want Libya to be a war zone. Those regional forces working to reestablish repressive regimes unaccountable to people are active in Libya. Their efforts to install client governments will not succeed.
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) December 27, 2019
Turkey has used its alliance with the Tripoli government to advance other interests. It signed a military cooperation agreement with the GNA during a visit by its leader Sarraj to Istanbul in November.
No details have been given on the scale of the potential deployment and Vice-President Fuat Oktay told state news agency Anadolu on Wednesday that no date had yet been set
But they also signed a maritime jurisdiction agreement giving Turkey rights to large swathes of the Mediterranean where gas reserves have recently been discovered. The agreement drew international criticism, particularly from Greece, which says it ignores its own claims to the area.
Analysts say Ankara was responding to being frozen out of regional energy deals, notably the “East Mediterranean Gas Forum”, formed this year by Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories.
Turkey’s fierce rivalry with the military government in Egypt is seen as another motivating factor behind the planned deployment.
— Liberty Middle Way (@way_liberty) January 3, 2020
Erdogan strongly backed Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government that was violently overthrown by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013.
Haftar has previously ordered his forces to target Turkish companies and arrest Turkish nationals. Six Turkish sailors were briefly held by his forces during the summer.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk.