Turkey’s engagement in Libya to endure in new era
A new era has surely begun in Libya after the election of Mohammed al-Menfi as the head of the Presidency Council and Abdulhamid Dbeibeh as the prime minister whose task is to accomplish the inter-Libyan political process and hold the elections in December. Many have assessed the defeat of the head of the House of Representatives in Tobruk, Aquila Saleh, and Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha against al-Menfi and Dbeibeh to be shocking.
But those who are familiar with the balances in Libya suggest that the winning team has better connections with both eastern and western Libya, while the support Saleh has been receiving from foreign powers has weakened his bid.
For Ankara, the new leadership is not a bad surprise. On the contrary, it’s believed that Turkey will be able to continue the level of coordination it had with former Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj with the new leadership in the new era.
In a written statement by the Foreign Ministry on Feb. 5, Ankara praised the democratic step taken by the Libyan political circles through the election of new leadership and vowed, “We will continue to extend our full support to the new executive authority for providing public services needed by the friendly and brotherly people of Libya, for ensuring security, normalizing daily life and for organizing the holding of elections as planned for the end of this year.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a phone conversation with both al-Menfi and Dbeibeh on Feb. 6 and wished success to both men.
Turkey has played a crucial role in Libya in early 2020 by deploying troops to Tripoli in line with a memorandum of understanding signed with the Government of National Accord (GNA). Strong military and political support pledged to the government in Tripoli nixed General Khalifa Haftar’s plans to seize the control of the capital city and establish his own rule in the oil-rich country with the support of his international backers, including Russia’s Wagner Group, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Turkey is rightly stressing that if the Libyans can talk about a fully inter-Libyan political process in the country, it is thanks to the Turkish intervention.
Looking from this perspective, the new Libyan leadership is not expected to break ties with Turkey and impose pressure for the withdrawal of the Turkish troops.
As Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stressed, Turkey’s policy is based on the “One Libya” motto, and its presence in the country is aimed to contribute to the ongoing peace process in the North African country.
That suggests that Turkey will not withdraw its troops from Libya and continue its training of the Libyan security forces.
Plus, Turkey’s troops are in Libya upon the invitation of the GNA and cannot be illustrated as “foreign fighters” or equal to the Russian mercenaries.
On the maritime delimitation agreement, it should be recalled that al-Menfi was former Libyan ambassador to Greece before he was designated as persona non grata by Athens after Tripoli and Ankara had signed the deal in late 2019. There also no solid sign that the new Libyan leadership would consider canceling it, either.
The year 2021 will be a crucial year for Libya, and Ankara’s contribution to the ongoing processes will continue in this period as suggested by the senior Turkish officials.