Middle East Expert
Libya is one of the most troubled states in the region. After the execution of Muammar Gaddafi and his son in 2011, the war has not stopped here for many years.
Libya is one of the most troubled states in the region. After the execution of Muammar Gaddafi and his son in 2011, the war has not stopped here for many years. Arms and slave trade, terrorism, and organized crime flourish in the country. The situation is complicated by the lack of a single legitimate authority and constitution. On the one hand, the eastern government is centered in the city of Tobruk and Prime Minister Abdullah Abdulrahman al-Thani. This territory (most of the country) is under the protection of the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Marshal Khalifa Haftar. On the other hand, the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.
On April 4, 2019, Haftar declared a military campaign. According to him, he intends to unite the country, finally cleansing it of terrorists and gangs. However, by the middle of May, it became clear that the field marshal did not have enough strength to realize his plans within the time frames indicated by him.
The conflict continues. Of course, not without foreign intervention. The United States, Arab and European countries have taken various positions in relation to the Libyan comflict. Someone directly or indirectly supported Haftar (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France), while others preferred the GNA (Turkey, Qatar).
Having not sorted out his area of responsibility in Syria (Idlib province), where thousands of militants are hiding, the Turkish government, at the request of the GNA, decided to send troops to Libya, previously transferred its forces there from Syria.
On January 5, President Erdogan assured that the tasks of Turkish soldiers would be exclusively “coordination of actions” and “ensuring the security of a legitimate government.” Allegedly, they will not be directly involved in the hostilities. On Tuesday, the GNA confirmed that the first group of soldiers from Turkey arrived in Tripoli.
Many countries (Greece, Cyprus, Israel and some Arab League member states), individual politicians (including Turkish ones), diplomats, activists and journalists opposed Turkish aggression. On December 27, demonstrations were held in Istanbul against Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict.
Turkey has as many rights to a military operation in Libya as Tripoli has to invite Turkey to participate in the conflict. According to the “Skhirat Agreements”, on the basis of which the GNA was created, the authority of the body expires after the election and the adoption of the constitution (within a year). In case the constitution is not adopted, there is another year. But there are still no elections, no constitution, so since the beginning of 2018, the GNA has lost its legitimacy.
Thus, Ankara actually commits a war crime by supporting illegal groups that usurped power in a particular section of Libya.
If the war cannot be avoided, Turkey may have problems. After all, one thing is when mercenaries perish for the interests of Erdogan and his party, and quite another when coffins with Turkish troops are delivered from an African country that is completely unrelated to the strategic interests of Turkey.
Moscow, like the Libyan people, is interested in a fast and bloodless resolution of the conflict. As well as in the conduct of elections and the adoption of the constitution.
This is the Russian position in any such conflicts. And an immediate ceasefire, as always, is the main condition for the start of the political process under the auspices of the UN.
It became the central topic of the talks between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, where the Russian leader recently flew to the opening ceremony of gas pipeline.
The meeting between the two presidents resulted in an agreement on a ceasefire, which is due to begin on January 12. The initiative was supported by all parties in Libya. But how the situation will be in practice is unknown.
The LNA reacted positively to the Russian-Turkish agreements. But it made clear that the fight against terrorism would continue, no matter what.
“The commanders of the armed forces welcome the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at establishing peace in Libya, which also represents the army’s goal and task,” Mismari said. “However, the armed forces will continue fighting against terrorist groups designated as such by UN Security Council resolutions. As experience shows, there is no other way to make a civil state, except by completely eliminating them,” said the official representative of the Libyan armed forces, Ahmed Mismari.
Further, Mismari makes it clear against who the fight will be:
“These groups have captured the capital of the country, receive support from a number of states and governments that send them weapons, ammunition, equipment, including UAV, and also transfer a large number of militants from around the world to confront the army and the Libyan people,” he said.
In the framework of the current ceasefire agreements, Turkey has a real chance to get out of this situation. At a minimum, do not participate in hostilities. At the very least, together with Russia, stop the fighting, putting pressure on the Sarraj government at least on the issue of cooperation with terrorists. Ankara may stop destabilizing the situation with the supply of arms and military equipment to Libyan militants.
However, it is not a fact that Ankara will follow the path of de-escalation. It is not yet clear how the results of the Russian-Turkish negotiations are more profitable than what, according to Erdogan, he and his team will receive from participating in the defense of Tripoli. There is every reason to be critical of the implementation of any peace initiatives emanating from the Turkish authorities. A vivid example is Syria, where for years the Turks have failed to demilitarize the province of Idlib. Although Erdogan repeatedly promised to cope with the militants and contribute to the return of Syria to normal life. It would seem that Turkey, drowning in Syrian refugees, is interested in this, like no other. However, the situation is only not improving, but is seriously deteriorating, as in Idlib it has become much more dangerous. Terrorists have significantly strengthened, and no other solution, except for a military one, is yet to be expected.
Obviously, in Libya, Erdogan is unlikely to be able to defend ideologically close forces (The Muslim Brotherhood). In any case, while all his adventures ended only in quarrels with international partners and chaos in the countries where the Turkish war machine came.
If Libyan campaign fails just like the Syrian one, Erdogan will face great difficulties in the upcoming elections. He won’t take advantage neigher of the Kurdish threat factor nor the name of the preacher Fethullah Gülen , who has been hiding in the United States since 1999.
Now, for the consequences of rash foreign policy, Turkey will have to answer to the whole world.