Turkey’s Erdoğan kicks off Africa tour in Algeria

On Sunday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan leaves Turkey, still reeling from last week’s earthquake in Elazığ province, to visit Algeria where the shockwaves of his government’s Libya policy continue to reverberate.

The Algerian government called neighbouring countries, but not representatives from Libya, to discuss a political solution for the conflict, which has heated up since Turkey agreed to deploy troops to back the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli.

Turkey and Russia breathed life back into the peace process earlier this month when Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a ceasefire, later bringing Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the rival Libyan National Army (LNA), to Moscow for talks.

Those talks ended poorly, with Haftar jetting back to Libya without inking any agreement. The later talks in Berlin yielded a communique that was agreed by both sides but written in vague terms unlikely to herald much progress toward peace.

Sure enough, the fighting has continued since the Berlin talks on Jan. 19, prompting the country’s High Council of State to warn that it will duck out of the next scheduled talks in Geneva on Monday if infrastructure and civilians continue to be targeted.

Algeria, like neighbouring Tunisia, has been suffering blowback from the conflict in Libya, with the increased border security believed to be costing Algiers $500 million per year. This figure could snowball even higher since President Abdelmadjid Tebboune decided to further boost security after Turkey announced its deployment.

With Tebboune deeply opposed to any influx of Turkish troops, Erdoğan will have his work cut out on his two-day stop in Algeria if he wishes to sway him toward Turkey’s vision for a Libyan resolution.

But the Turkish president’s trip will not focus solely on the conflict in Libya. The African continent will be a priority for Turkey in 2020, according to Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan, who visited Morocco and Nigeria last week.

Pekcan said Turkey aimed to sign an economic and trade cooperation deal with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and discussed this during her Nigeria trip. Erdoğan is set to follow his Algeria visit with trips to Gambia and Senegal, two more ECOWAS member states.

Turkey’s rising influence in east Africa has made headlines in recent years, particularly thanks to its military presence in Somalia and the talk that it could rebuild a naval base in Sudan. The deals signed in Libya have given it a strong influence on the north African agenda.

With Ankara’s eyes now turning to the west of the continent, a successful round of talks could further boost Turkey’s African presence and carry it toward its goal of diversifying its trade.


© Ahval English