Turkey prolonging Libyan conflict to gain wider regional influence - analysis

Turkey’s presence and intervention in Libya are motivated by its desire to gain influence within the south of the Mediterranean region and its bet on Islamist forces, which will be loyal to Ankara, wrote Ziad Akl, senior political analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, in Ahram Online. 

Ankara backs the internationally recognised Islamist-rooted Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) government in Tripoli, supplying drones, weapons and trucks to boost its efforts in the ongoing conflict in Libya, which has torn by violence and division since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

The Libyan National Army (LNA), supported by Turkey’s regional rivals Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, in April began and offensive against the GNA, in a move that has further escalated the country’s civil war.

Turkey has been one of the foreign dimensions in the Libyan conflict since the beginning, Akl wrote, adding the oil-rich country is a prime location for the aspirations of Ankara, which is empowered by several motives and targets various gains where Libya is concerned.

Ankara is focused on gaining more influence within the south of the Mediterranean region, as this will allow for the country to later use this power as a bargaining card in Turkey’s relations with the West, the article said.

Turkey also has an ongoing bet on Islamist forces in the Arab world with the hopes that they will materialise regimes loyal to Turkey and it’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it added.  

"Between international political pressure, local support for the Presidential Council and frequent illegal provision of arms; the Turks were one of the main actors that empowered the Libyan west. On platforms based on ideology and regional supremacy, Turkey has established a long-term role in Libya,’’ Akl wrote.

The article pointed to escalating conflicts in Libyan-Turkish relations and Egypt’s likely role against a Turkish intervention, as threatened by Turkish President Erdoğan.

LNA forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar detained six Turkish citizens earlier this month,releasing them shortly thereafter following a warning by Ankara of retaliation against LNA.

Ankara is chasing ideology-oriented targets within the Middle East and North Africa region, according to Akl, who maintains Turkey is very much a part of the competition over practising influence in the region. 

It is unlikely that Turkish inference will morph into military intervention,  according to Akl, however, Ankara’s role in Libya is not a constructive one, but rather a tool to protract the domestic conflict.