Libya conference was a success but…
The decision to send “military elements” to Libya was an issue not so much embraced by the nation. Would they be combat troops or just military advisors? Would they include Turkish conscripts or was the “other elements” remark an indication that some paramilitary elements - probably recruits from the Syrian opposition - would be sent there? The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was playing the game witch cards close to its chest while even many key figures of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) preferred to stress that even though “Turkey’s defense started from Tripoli,” engaging directly in the conflict might not be in Turkey’s best interest.
What was Erdoğan’s plan? Whatever it was, the Berlin round of Libya diplomacy and the decision to stop all foreign interference in the Libyan civil war, the pledge not to supply weapons to warring parties and, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it, the consensus that the arms embargo should be controlled more strongly than it has been in the past produced a landmark towards a diplomatic deal.
Could the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli and the warlord Khalifa Haftar grab this opportunity? Would French leader Emmanuel Macron, who has been so adamantly against Turkey’s deployment of military elements of any sort in Libya while his country played every possible role to support the rebels, now stop supporting Haftar and abide by the embargo decision?
Furthermore, if war is not wanted and there is full support for a ceasefire which might provide room for diplomacy, controlling arms embargo more strongly probably required clamping a hydrocarbon embargo on both sides, but particularly the rebel general.
The Berlin conference was a success with or without the antagonists of Libya. Both sides signed a ceasefire deal. What they said at the conference or on the sidelines of the meeting, including during Haftar’s not-so-wise stopover in Greece. Even during the conference, Haftar’s troops were shelling Tripoli. Most probably, unless the capabilities of the rebel general are crippled with effective arms embargo and a vigilant monitoring of abidance with the embargo as well as decreased if not totally stopped commercial deals, those countries engaged in Libyan diplomacy would not be able to domesticate Haftar and force him to engage strongly in a diplomatic resolution.
Of course, many countries, particularly Turkey might officially continue to declare that there could be no mediation between a “terrorist general” and a legitimate government, but if and when peace is really wanted, finding ways to engage all parties to the conflict in a negotiations process is the only road that must be walked. Of course, the prerequisite of such efforts to succeed is the existence of a strong political will to engage in a process of painful compromise.
With its proactive Libya policy, Turkey has paved the way to the Berlin encounter. The Berlin conference has provided the U.N.-recognized government some breathing space. But the problem is there and the Haftar forces are much stronger than the Tripoli government. Tomorrow Turkey might feel compelled to remind Germany and other participants of the Berlin conference the need to enforce implementation of the decisions taken at the German capital. If for its own strategic interests in eastern Mediterranean, Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to believe Turkey needed the internationally-recognized Fayez al-Sarraj government, Turkey might feel obliged to unilaterally and effectively engage again in the Libyan quagmire. Thus, Merkel’s pledge that arms embargo would be controlled more strongly should not be taken as wishful thinking but an expression of a compelling duty.
Even if Haftar troops run over the government in Tripoli, the Turkey-Libya memorandum of understanding on sea border between the two countries has become part of international law and its rescinding might not be that possible even if the warlord-imposed coup government wishes to scrap it. Still, such a development might pull Turkey into Libya militarily.
Another result of Turkey’s proactive Libya policy was that it became clear to friends and foes of Ankara that nothing can be achieved not only in Libya but in this entire region without engaging Turkey.
So far so good… But to rip the benefits of the resources and potentials of the region, obviously Turkey needed to find ways of resolving the problems between herself and all the governments of this geography, including Israel, Syria, Greece and the Greek Cypriots. Even from this perspective, contributing to a resolution on Cyprus has become a must for Turkey. If for its strategic interests in Libya and eastern Mediterranean, Turkey could risk war, it must not be that difficult to try to find some revolutionary ways of contributing to resolution of the problems…