Turkey's military mission in Libya

Published 29.12.2019 18:19
Updated 31.12.2019 01:37

Turkey cares on many levels about its relationship with its maritime neighbors in the Mediterranean, Libya. The countries reached two new agreements over the last weeks that took their relations to a strategic level. Under the first deal, Turkey and Libya agreed on their respective maritime jurisdictions in the Eastern Mediterranean, ratifying the text and submitting it to the U.N. The agreement was significant because it strengthens the hands of both nations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Under the deal, Turkey dealt a heavy blow to the maximalist demands of Greece and the Greek Cypriot in the energy-rich region.

Libya is going through a difficult period. Forces loyal to the coup plotter Khalifa Haftar, backed by a handful of countries, are attempting to overthrow Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj's government, in violation of the U.N. resolutions. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia are on Haftar's corner – which brings me to the second Turkish-Libyan agreement that created a legal framework for Turkey to provide military support to Libya's legitimate government.

Turkey prepares to take major steps regarding the situation in Libya. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who paid a surprise visit to Tunisia last week, personally unveiled the plan. Tunisia, like Algeria, is concerned about the high instability in Libya and sees eye to eye with the Turks on the need to punish Haftar's forces and restore stability.

Erdoğan had repeatedly told reporters that Turkey would consider deploying troops to Tripoli if the Government of National Accord (GNA) were to request assistance. My sources in the Turkish capital Ankara say that Libya has officially made that request. Indeed, Turkey's current efforts support that claim.

Under Turkey's constitution, Parliament is required to sign off on any military operation outside the country's borders. There is an ongoing effort to put a military authorization bill through Parliament as soon as possible. The legislative branch will be on winter break until Jan. 8, so the immediate expectation was that deputies would debate and vote on the draft resolution upon returning to the capital. Sources in Ankara, however, say the vote could take place earlier. Reports suggest several lawmakers have received messages recently, informing them that the Parliament could debate troop deployment to Libya this week – probably Thursday. The decision would be made today, an undisclosed source claimed. In other words, the Turkish Parliament is set to greenlight Turkey's military operations in Libya later this week or at some point in January, at the latest.

Following the resolution's adoption, Turkish troops will deploy to Libya in support of al-Sarraj's government. According to President Erdoğan, Turkey is looking into land, naval and air forces. Even though sources say that the role of Turkey's military personnel could be limited and advisory, Ankara is set to clarify in the coming days how many troops it will commit, with what specific job and whether it will do in Libya what it already did in Qatar.

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