Turkey, Libya commit to deepening ties in new era

Turkey, Libya commit to deepening ties in new era

Tripoli was the most frequented destination for diplomacy last week. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis,
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and European Council President Charles Michel were just a few of the senior officials to visit Libya’s capital. Plus, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, just a few days after his prime minister, went to Tripoli to hold talks with his counterparts in an effort to break the ice between the two nations.

Libya’s current prime minister, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, was his country’s ambassador to Athens before
he was expelled by the Mitsotakis government in late 2019 in reaction to Libya’s maritime demarcation agreement with Ankara. (By a quirk of fate, Dbeibah will be in Athens today as the prime minister of the unity government.)

This agreement, seen as a game-changer in the eastern Mediterranean to the advantage of Turkey, remains a focal point for Greek diplomats. According to Greek media, Dendias urged the Libyan authorities to void the agreement, which could make Libya’s relations with Greece and the European Union more difficult.

Just a day after Dendias’ visit to Tripoli, the head of Libya’s new unity government, Dbeibah, paid a remarkable
visit to Ankara with the participation of his entire cabinet of five deputy prime ministers and 14 ministers. In addition to a bilateral meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Dbeibah, the countries also staged a high-level strategic cooperation council meeting, while all the visiting ministers also conducted bilateral meetings with their counterparts.

The visit has produced three main results. First, it has helped the two countries renew their commitment to deepening their bilateral cooperation in various fields. Turkey and Libya enjoyed a close economic and trade relationship from the 1970s until the start of civil war in Libya in the past decade. Libya is certainly a well-known terrain for Turkish businesspeople and contractors.

During the visit, the two sides agreed on the construction of three power plants, the new international terminal of the Tripoli Airport and a new mall in the capital. That shows Turkey has already started its efforts for the reconstruction of Libya.

The second important result regards Turkey’s continued role and support for Libya’s ongoing normalization process, despite the objections of some European powers. Dbeibah is surely aware that if he is able to run an inter-Libyan political process, it’s thanks to Turkey’s engagement and support for the Tripoli government. That’s why he emphasized
that Libya appreciates Turkey’s support for a lasting ceasefire in the country.

Third, it was important for Ankara to hear from the prime minister that the maritime demarcation agreement signed between Turkey and Libya was in the interest of both countries while underlining the need for dialogue with all relevant countries that would be in the interest of all the parties.

In this sense, one can conclude that Libya – at least the current government – will not cancel the agreement with Turkey but will look for a regional and inclusive platform where all the problems concerning the eastern Mediterranean can be addressed. Dbeibah’s visit to Athens, right after his trip to Ankara, shows Libya is keen to keep channels
open with all regional countries and pursue a balanced approach.

Serkan Demirtaş, Politics, Erdogan,