Turkish Expert - Turkey’s involvement in Libya has created momentum for peace | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

25 June, Friday

Turkish Expert - Turkey’s involvement in Libya has created momentum for peace

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Since April, Libya’s internationally recognised government known as GNA has launched Peace Storm Operation against Libyan National Army under the leadership of warlord Haftar.  As a result of operation, most important strategic areas in Western Libya are now under the control of GNA armed forces, and they are advancing on city of Sirte, which is coastal city to oil fields in Eastern Libya. Turkey’s support to the GNA in military operation should be undeniable. Turkish armed forces, military advisers as well as military facilities, such drones and anti-aircraft systems, have been playing significant role in the counter-attacks by the GNA to push back Haftar-led army.

Given the current situation in Libya, Ferhat Polat, the expert on Libya at the TRT World Research Centre gave an exclusive interview to EDNews.net. 

TRT World Research Centre - Ferhat Polat

- How do you assess the significance of Turkey's role in the protection of security and sovereignty of Libya?

Haftar’s self-described Libyan National Army (LNA) announced in December 2019 that a “decisive battle” had been launched to capture the capital Tripoli from the internationally recognised government, the Government of National Accord (GNA). This latest offensive comes a year after he launched an earlier military attack to seize the capital

On January 2, 2020, Turkey's parliament has approved the government to deploy troops to Libya in support of the internationally recognized government in Tripoli. In the face of another offensive on Tripoli, the  GNA requested help from Turkey to fight armed groups and formations who reject to recognise the legitimacy of the state, and threaten security and peace in Libya. Ankara responded, Turkey has stepped up its efforts to deploy military advisers and sending armed drones.

Since April, backed by Turkey the UN-backed government has achieved significant victories over the past few days while the militias of Haftar have suffered heavy losses.

Libya’s internationally recognised government gained a number of successes in the counter attacks against Haftar’s forces by virtue of Turkey’s strong military support. According to some arguments, with successful operation by the GNA, Turkey has gained strategic victory over Russia in Libya. What is your opinion about this?  

Turkish drones and air defence systems have helped the U.N.-backed government to retake all of western Libya from Haftar.  Turkey’s support for UN-backed government turn the tide of the war so quickly.

The recapture of al Watiya, a key military base and Tarhouna, a town of strategic value for Haftar forces and his last major stronghold in the capital’s vicinity, represent a significant blow to the warlord and his backers.  UN-backed government forces have been advancing on Sirte, a coastal city and a gateway to the oilfields and the east.

As a result, last weekend Egyptian President El Sisi who supports Haftar, calls for ceasefire but this time, the GNA rejected Haftar’s ceasefire offer, viewing the warlord both as an untrustworthy leader who has not honoured his previous commitments and as someone who is now on the back foot. 

- Turkish columnist Semih Ediz shared his views with Al-Jazeera about Turkish diplomacy in Libya. He said: “there is no guarantee for Turkey that the agreement between the GNA and Haftar in Libya will honour November deal that Ankara signed with Al-Sarraj for demarcation and delimitation of East Mediterranean. What do you think, would GNA government attempt to undermine strategic interests of Turkey in Libya after reaching full agreement with eastern Libya?

On November 28, 2019, Turkey and Libya’s legitimate government signed two separate memorandums of understanding (MoU), one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. The agreement enables both Turkey and Libya to preserve their rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean waters.  Thus, it seems hard to expect that the UN- backed government will undermine the maritime agreement as beneficial for both sides.  

- Why does Ankara support Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Libya and other Arabs states? What is important aspect of this organisation in the foreign policy of Turkey with Arab states?

December 2015, the political agreement, also known as the Skhirat agreement (LPA), was signed to form a transitional government. The deal was aimed at transcending the country's political divide after the eruption of civil war in mid-2014 that had put an end to the transitional process.

Turkey supported the LPA and thus, Turkey has backed the UN-backed government from the onset. This step aimed to achieve a just, comprehensive, lasting and peaceful solution based on international legitimacy and international initiatives.

UN-backed government known as GNA is believed to represent a range of political forces, including members of the MB, this factor seems to be not main driver for Turkish policy in the country.  Turkey stands behind the only legitimate government in Libya.

- How could Ankara and Moscow cooperate in peace negotiations to find solution to Libyan conflict?

Since 2015, Russia has been ramping up its engagement in Libya and supporting Haftar by providing significant military help for his offensive against the UN-backed government. 

Reportedly, Russia is considering abandoning Haftar after more than a year of a failed military campaign to take Tripoli from the GNA. The move comes significant losses for Haftar, particularly his losing a key military base in the west of Libya.

The UN has been encouraging diplomatic efforts, while the failure of previous initiatives, the arms build-up, and Haftar's history of undermining political solutions make it harder for any credible diplomatic effort toward ending the conflict in Libya to take hold.

It is becoming clear that Haftar’s assault on the capital has failed. He is now politically and militarily seeking to hold his position in eastern Libya.  

On 30 April, the Libyan House of Representatives (HoR) speaker Aguila Saleh declared he had worked with Russian advisers in drafting a political road map that called for an end to aggressions. As a result, Thus, in the coming period Egypt and Russia could form a new alliance in eastern Libya to replace Haftar.

Judging internal and external dynamics, Russia and Turkey could take the lead in efforts to find a solution to Libya's near decade-long crisis. They may strike a deal in Libya by bringing rival groups to the negotiating table, excluding warlord Haftar. 

- What next strategic plans would be expected in Turkey-Libya cooperation following the end of war and the restoration of stability in Libya?

Turkey seems to take an understandable position in Libya, Ankara is the only one whose presence in the country legal under the international law. In the sense, there is a formal security partnership between Turkey and the UN-backed government. Besides, Turkey’s support to GNA is seen as a very positive step by many Libyan people. 

Turkey’s determination to be more involved in Libya has created a new momentum for peace and given some life to the nearly-dead UN-led political initiative.

Turkey could help the UN-backed government to restore Libyan institutions once the country is stabilised as Turkish companies have had great experience in helping to the development of the country including, energy, construction and aviation as likely fields of collaboration.


By Yunis Abdullayev

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