Turkey playing complicated chess game in Libya - analyst

Turkey is involved in a complex game of chess in war-torn Libya, where it has sided with the U.N. -recognised government, but also aligned itself with the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, wrote former Turkish Foreign Minsiter Yaşar Yakış.

Muslim Brotherhood-inclined members make up the bulk of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) Tripoli parliament, which is the driving factor behind the strong solidarity between Ankara and the GNA, Yakış wrote in his column for the Arab News on Sunday.

Turkey and Libya in November signed two agreements on security and military cooperation and restriction of marine jurisdictions. The agreements arrived as the GNA battled forces backed by a rival faction led by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar to seize Tripoli.

Turkey claims areas previously claimed by Greece and the Republic of Cyprus in the maritime agreement, while the military cooperation agreement paved the way for the deployment of Syrian mercenaries.

‘’The corridor established by the Turkish-Libyan deal could impede the implementation of a pipeline project that was supposed to carry Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe,’’ Yakış wrote.

Turkey opposes the 1,900-km (1,180-mile) proposed pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, for which Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a deal in January.

As for the military agreement with the GNA, Yakış said, it was only when Ankara began sending military equipment and advisers to Libya that the military balance on the ground started to shift in the GNA’s favour. 

Haftar’s forces appear likely to fail at their year-long effort to capture Tripoli as the Turkish-backed GNA has seized a string of towns near the Tunisian border and a crucial airbase.

‘’Turkey’s military assistance became like a lifejacket for the moribund GNA and the tide is now turning to its advantage,’’ the former Turkish foreign minister wrote.

Despite all the developments in Turkey’s favour, Yakış said, success is not guaranteed in Libya, where a number of countries, such as Egypt, Russia and France, back Haftar.