Battle of legal and illegal in Libya

Published 27.01.2020 01:37

A review of the history of Turkey's regional relations reveals the importance of Tripoli for Turkey. Turkey's sensitivity to Libya was heightened when Sudanese political leaders such as Omar al-Bashir were ousted from power. However, Ankara, which does not want to lag behind its regional rivals in Libya, is trying to declare its presence in Libya and not lose to Saudi Arabia.

Within this regard, Turkey now faces a new challenge and after entering northern Syria to create a safe and clear zone against terrorist elements and recently signing an agreement with the Tripoli government to boost its military presence in North Africa, it has seen some backlash. It has led some countries in the region, including Egypt, to conduct military exercises. And Turkey's decision to stay in Libya has not been accepted by Israel and Greece.

After the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Libya, as an oil-rich country of North Africa, was divided into two parts. While Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates support the more secular Tobruk government, Turkey, along with Qatar and Sudan, are supporting Libya's other leading political representatives.

Libya's importance to Turkey grew when the country was divided into two groups: Supporters of Gen. Khalifa Haftar and supporters of national sovereignty. Now, despite the split in the country, the government of consensus on the one hand, and militant-led militias on the other, are trying to achieve their goals.

But this is not the whole story, and Haftar is trying to get the government to form an "independent" state. Haftar, as an extremist leader supported by countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and France, is trying to open a new generation of anti-Islamic war in the region. While Turkey has a good relationship with the Libyan national government and is considered a Muslim country, it is naturally concerned about its comprehensive support for the abolition of the Libyan national and Muslim government by a harsher military group and the need to intervene to prevent such an ominous plan.

The battleground of powers

Following the fall of Gadhafi, with the emergence of bilateral strife to gain power, regional and transregional states each supported either side of the conflict. On one side of the conflict, there is the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) government of Fayaz al-Sarraj, and on the other, the Libyan House of Representatives officials backed by the national army, led by Haftar.

In fact, the government in Tripoli has been recognized by the United Nations and backed by some countries in the world, including Turkey and Qatar. But it has not been favored by Haftar forces, which also control much of the country's oil facilities. And with the backing of countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, they are seeking to set up a national unity government. After increasing tensions between the nation's government and supporters of Haftar, the Egypt-Saudi-UAE axis increased tougher support for the abolition of the Libyan GNA.

Turkey and Qatar, which have sought the U.N.-backed recognition and support of the Tripoli government, have opposed Egypt's decision with its allies and have declared their full support for the Tripoli government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a speech that Turkey is not intervening in Libya but is trying to grant aid to the U.N.-approved official government upon an official invitation.

"What about the presence of 6,000 Sudanese and 6,000 mercenaries affiliated with Wagner's Russian company in Libya? You didn't even ask them what they were doing in Libya and what their mission was." Consequently, it can be said that Turkey's military presence in Libya, on the one hand, could become an obstacle to Gen. Haftar's military operation against the Tripoli government, and on the other hand increase Turkey's ability to exercise power in the Mediterranean.

Turkey's goals in Libya

While Turkish rivals are concerned about Turkey's expansion of influence in Libya and accuse Turkey of reviving Ottoman ambitions in the region, Ankara considers the support of the UAE and Saudi Arabia of Haftar as the main cause of instability and stalemate in Libya's stability and seeks to establish a unified government by the recognized administration in Libya.

President Erdoğan's decision to target the military and even economic presence in Libya is influenced by several factors. First, the history of Turkish relations with Libya before the overthrow of the previous political system was a lasting one and Turkish economic activity in Libya was very high.

The second factor is Turkey's new regional policy interest in the Mediterranean. And it is this new Turkish policy that has partly upset the Western and even European Union equations and raised concerns. But whether it will engage Turkey with the West, at least in political terms, it may damage Turkey's ties with the EU. Although Turkey does not like the EU, and there is some annoyance with it for Turkey, if Turkey increases its influence in the Mediterranean region, it will raise more serious concern for European and Western nations.

As a result, opposition to the national government headed by al-Sarraj in Libya, despite being the only legitimate government approved by the U.N., has fallen on the heels of Haftar and with the backing of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even France.

They are trying to overthrow the government of al-Sarraj because it will make it possible for them to take full advantage of this oil-rich African country. In the meantime, Turkey has declared the support for the forces affiliated with Gen. Haftar as illegal, citing the U.N. vote to legalize the government of al-Sarraj and as a Muslim country in the region, recognize the Tripoli-based GNA as the only legitimate government in Libya.

* Fellow at the Iranian International Studies Association in Tehran. His research focuses on Iran and the Middle East

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