We will accept Libya’s troop request: Erdoğan
The Turkish government will submit a parliamentary motion for the deployment of troops to Libya after a demand by the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, signaling that the necessary approval would be obtained from the Turkish Parliament before mid-January.
“Based on our memorandum of understanding on the security and military cooperation, we will submit a motion for the deployment of the troops to parliament as the first item after it re-opens. We will therefore be able to provide a more efficient support to the legitimate government in Libya after the approval from our parliament,” Erdoğan said at his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) meeting on Dec. 26.
Turkey and Libya signed two important memoranda of understandings on Nov. 27, one on the defense and security cooperation and the other on the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction zones in the Mediterranean Sea.
Turkey backs the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) under the leadership of Prime Minister Mustafa Fayez al-Sarraj, who is defending his government against General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, backed by Russia, Egypt, France, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries. The survival of the GNA is vital for Ankara in order to be able to implement the maritime jurisdiction deal with Libya against Greece, Egypt and Greek Cyprus.
Erdoğan recalled Libya’s importance for Turkey in both historical and social ties and underlined that its support will continue in the coming period. “We have stood against the attacks by a coup plotter general against the country’s legitimate government from the very outset. We have given, are giving and will give all sorts of support to the Tripoli government in its fight against this coup plotter government who is being supported by various European and Arab nations,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan recalled that he is being subjected to questions on whether Turkey would deploy troops to Libya and said, “What we say, ‘We’ll go if we would be invited.’ If not invited, we don’t go. But as there is such an invitation, we will accept it.”
The two deals Turkey signed with Libya indicate the place and the importance of Libya in the eyes of the Turkish public opinion, Erdoğan stressed, denying claims that they don’t comply with the international law.
“Our objective with this agreement is not to hijack anybody’s rights in the Mediterranean, to the contrary, is to protect our rights. Because if we would have not taken such a step, [there would be] a plot that was aiming to confine to its territorial waters in the Mediterranean,” he said.
Many countries like Russia which have around 2,000 mercenaries or Sudan with 5,000 armed men stand against the Turkish intention to deepen its cooperation with Libya’s legitimate government, Erdoğan said, vowing that no challenge can stop Turkey’s engagement with the Tripoli government.
“They are assisting a warlord. We are accepting an invitation from the country’s legitimate government. This is our difference. Remember, they had backed a coup plotter in Egypt instead of the legitimate government. God willing, we will not allow the repetition of the same unprincipled stances, the same enmity against the democracy and rule of law,” Erdoğan vowed.
Turkey, Tunisia agree to cooperate on Libya
Erdoğan also informed about his one-day surprise visit to Tunisia, a neighboring country to Libya.
“We have agreed to cooperate in lending political support to the legitimate government in the country with Tunis as we are on the same page on the stability of Libya. The position and opinions of Tunisia which will start to serve as one of the temporary members of the U.N. Security Council by January 1, 2020,” the president stated.
The Berlin process should therefore include Tunisia, Algeria and Qatar, Erdoğan said, informing about his diplomatic efforts for their inclusion to a conference to be potentially held in January in the German capital.
Europe should act for Idlib
Erdoğan also mentioned the latest attacks by the Syrian and Russian armies into the Idlib de-escalation zone which have triggered a new refugee influx towards the Turkish borders.
“The attacks and the harassment fires of the regime forces make a permanent ceasefire impossible. Around 100,000 people fleeing these attacks are approaching towards our borders. We have openly told the whole world, particularly Europe, that we can’t tolerate a new refugee wave,” he stressed.
The main message Turkey has conveyed is that everyone will have to pay the price if they don’t support Turkey’s efforts in Idlib, the president stated. “The European countries must assume responsibility for the de-escalation in Idlib where four million people live.”
Kanal Istanbul ‘unrelated’ to Montreux Convention
The Kanal Istanbul project has nothing to do with the Montreux Convention of 1936, Erdoğan said, challenging the main opposition party’s objections on the planned artificial seaway.
“The income Turkey will generate from this project will compensate for the costs in the short term and become a permanent source of finances. With this project, we are opening new areas of life for the already-crowded Istanbul,” Erdoğan said.
“Kanal Istanbul has nothing to do with the Montreux Convention. It will fully function and operate as a waterway of Turkey. Istanbul, our country’s most valued brand, will be more valuable with this project,” he added.
Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey controls the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles Straits and regulates the passage of warships between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
The convention states that the Bosphorus’ main principle in peace time is freedom of passage. The convention limits the duration of the stay and the sizes of the military vessels’ belonging to non-littoral countries in the Black Sea.
Erdoğan’s remarks came as a response to the objections of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The CHP has been a vocal opponent of Kanal Istanbul, saying such a construction would violate international treaties, damage the environment and will increase the risk of massive earthquakes.
CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu on Dec. 19 accused the government of “betraying” Istanbul with the planned waterway project. He also claimed that the project will not be actualized because there will be “a change of government in the next elections.”
“No one dares to allocate money [for Kanal Istanbul]. Not even a penny allocated will be given. Aren’t they getting enough from betraying Istanbul?” Kılıçdaroğlu had also said.
The president also slammed Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks, accusing him of threatening contractors.
“[He says,] ‘Do not enter this business, we will cancel it when we come [to power.] You will and cannot [come to power]. Our nation is waiting for services,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also said that the Constitutional Court has rejected the CHP’s application for Kanal Istanbul, saying handling it within the scope of build-operate-transfer model is constitutional.
“In other terms, the decision for this project has been made, the process has started and reached a certain level. Our preparations for the project and construction process of Kanal Istanbul is about to be finalized,” he said.
Erdoğan also added that Turkey will hold the tender for Kanal Istanbul in a short time.
“We will actualize this project from the national budget, if it does not happen with the build-operate-transfer model without any burden on our state and nation,” he said.