Turkey driving a wedge between Tunisia, Libya

The policies of the Turkey-Muslim Brotherhood axis in North Africa have exacerbated tensions between Tunisia and Libya, leading to an unprecedented atmosphere of doubt and suspicion.

Tunisia’s political scene has been further complicated by the manoeuvres of the Islamist Ennahda party, which has been accused of working in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in western Libya, which is also backed by Turkey.

Ennahda’s alleged connections have not only led to tensions in Tunisia, but have complicated relations between eastern Libya and Tunis.

Tunisia’s recent moves, including allowing Turkey to use the country’s air space and territory to transfer critical aid to western Libya, are raising fears that relations with eastern Libya will continue to deteriorate.

Signs of deterioration have become clearer in recent days, as Libya’s eastern government levied criticism at Tunisia for allowing Turkey to use its country to transfer the aid, which was allegedly provided to militias loyal to Sarraj’s government.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of Libya’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives recently released a statement signed by its president, Yousef al-Agouri, asking the Tunisian Foreign Ministry to clarify the circumstances surrounding the Turkish plane’s landing at Djerba-Zarzis International Airport.

In the statement, Agouri expressed “doubt” over the Tunisian government’s initial explanation.” “These doubts have increased after our request for clarification was ignored [by the Tunisian side].”

 “Turkey’s policies and its blatant interference in our country’s affairs, including the deployment of mercenaries and the transfer of weapons, are no secret. This, of course, explains our reservations about the Turkish plane’s cargo,” he said. 

 Talal Al-Mihoub, head of the Defense and National Security Committee of the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, also denounced Turkey’s intervention. He said Ankara “aims at provoking chaos and instability in Libya through providing support to the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda.”

 Mihoub warned of Turkey’s ambitions to “control the Mediterranean region, a move that constitutes a direct threat to the European Union.”

“Tunisia should not become a transit point for Turkey’s weapons and mercenaries into Libya, with the aim of supporting the Government of National Accord in its war against the Libyan National Army forces that seeks to liberate the capital Tripoli from Islamist militias and terrorist groups,” Mihoub added.

About a week ago, a Turkish cargo plane reportedly carrying aid to Tripoli landed at the Djerba-Zarzis International Airport with the approval of the Tunisian presidency under the condition it be delivered to Tunisian authorities for security and customs checks.

Mihoub noted that Libya is currently “watching how Tunisia, headed by Kais Saeid, is facilitating the transit of death to Libya.”

Many Tunisian political parties criticised the Turkish plane’s landing, which they viewed as a violation of Tunisia’s sovereignty and an attempt to drag it into the Libyan conflict. 

There were also concerns that Turkey was coordinating with Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi to advance its agenda through Tunisia. 

The Muslim Brotherhood “wants to expand their project in the Arab Maghreb region, and they are using Tunisia as a logistical base, from which they can enter Libya to destabilise security in the whole region,” said President of the anti-Islamist Free Doustourian Party Abir Moussi, who has repeatedly denounced Ghannouchi in parliament.

In a video posted on her official Facebook page, Moussi renewed her call to withdraw confidence from Ghannouchi, arguing that he constitutes a threat to Tunisia’s national security.

“Withdrawing confidence from Ghannouchi is a national duty,” she said.


The article was first published in the Arab Weekly.