Intervening in Libya, Erdogan in search of a regional stature

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkey’s parliament is to vote on Thursday (January 2nd) on whether to send troops to Libya. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intends to back the Government of National Accord (GNA) militarily in the face of Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s offensive to capture the capital.

Despite concerns that Turkish forces could aggravate Libya’s conflict further and destabilize the region, the Turkish legislators are expected to approve the motion at the emergency session called for later in the day and grant a one-year mandate for the military deployment.

The main opposition party in Turkey has made it clear that it will vote against the motion, saying it would lead Turkey into another conflict that would “shed the blood of Muslims”. It has called on Erdoğan’s government to seek a diplomatic solution in Libya instead.

A threat to “the interests of Turkey in the Mediterranean basin and in North Africa”, these are the words chosen by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to justify to the Turks his intention to deploy soldiers in this country. For Turkey, the stake is regional. It is a question of not leaving the field free – militarily and diplomatically – to countries which it considers as rivals and which chose to support the forces of Khalifa Haftar. These include Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Commander Khalifa Haftar’s soldiers

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last month that Sarraj requested the Turkish military deployment after they signed a military deal that allows Ankara to send military experts and personnel to Libya. That deal, along with a separate maritime border deal, has drawn ire across the region and beyond.

It is important to note that Turkey finds itself increasingly isolated in the eastern Mediterranean as Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel have established exclusive economic zones paving the way for oil and gas exploration.

Faced with great international and regional support from Khalifa Haftar (Russia, France Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia), Turkey has attempted to rally two neighboring countries to Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, without success. Tunis continues to adopt neutrality in the face of the Libyan conflict. On the other hand, Algiers categorically opposes any military intervention in Libya.

On its side, Egypt, whose interests are very threatened by a possible intervention in Libya, has multiplied international contacts to counter Turkey. President al-Sissi warned: “Libya is a matter of Egyptian national security”.

At the same time as this decision is being voted on in Ankara, other sources affirm that 300 pro-Turkey Syrian fighters had already been transferred to Libya and that more than 900 others were training in Turkish camps.

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