Turkish Libya gambit leading to costly ‘Great Game’ – opposition lawmaker

Turkey’s gambit of sending troops to Libya is part of an effort to catch up after diplomatic failure left it frozen out of deals for hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean as a new “Great Game” kicks off in the region, former diplomat and deputy leader of Turkey’s main opposition party Ünal Çeviköz wrote for Euronews on Friday.

But by ramping up its involvement in regional conflicts, Turkey has sacrificed its tradition of diplomatic neutrality and left itself exposed to major risks, the diplomat said.

Çeviköz likened the series of proxy conflicts and points of tension in Turkey’s vicinity, including the wars in Libya and Syria and recent escalations between the United States and Iran, to Russia and Britain’s contest for influence in Central Asia in the 19th century.

Turkey has played a major role in the rivalries, taking opposite sides in the conflicts to other regional powers and not hesitating to use military force to fight its corner.

Turkey’s armed forces have launched three cross-border operations into northern Syria since 2016 and are now in Libya assisting the Tripoli government against its rivals. Turkey has also signed a deal with Tripoli that lays claim to a large maritime jurisdiction overlapping Greek claims, and has flexed its naval muscles to stop regional countries from drilling for gas in disputed areas off Cyprus.

The hard line approach in the eastern Mediterranean would not have been necessary if Turkey had engaged with regional countries diplomatically to demand its share of the potentially rich hydrocarbon resources, and now that those claims are tied into the conflict in Libya, Turkey could face major costs of being embroiled in a far-off civil war, Çeviköz said.

“Military might is useful when it functions as a deterrent. Actual use of military might or attempts at threatening others with the intention of using it ceases its function as a deterrent,” he said.

“Fear in international relations invokes counter measures and attempts to outbalance the adversaries. Such tendencies always end with increased military spending, armament and growing risks of confrontation.”

The former diplomat said Turkey should seek dialogue with its opponents in Syria and Libya and prioritise a U.N.-led peace process.